Mature-aged Sport and Physical Activity

Mature-aged Sport and Physical Activity
Prepared by  Prepared by: Dr Ralph Richards and Christine May, Senior Research Consultants, Clearinghouse for Sport, Sport Australia (formerly Australian Sports Commission)
evaluated by  Evaluation by: Dr Peter Reaburn, Professor and Head, Sport and Exercise Science, Bond University (March 2017)
Reviewed by  Reviewed by network: Australian Sport Information Network (AUSPIN)
Last updated  Last updated: 10 May 2019
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Long-term sport and physical activity behaviours have been linked to enhanced and lifelong physical, mental, and social wellbeing outcomes.

15% of Australians (3.7 million) were aged 65 and over in 2016. This cohort is projected to grow to 22% of our total population (approximately 8.7 million) by 2056.  

An ageing population presents many significant challenges to governments—particularly across the social policy related areas of health services, active participation of older persons in society, community planning and infrastructure, and overall quality of life.

Key Messages 


2016/17 AusPlay data shows that only 44% of older Australians (65+) participated in physical activity five times per week—of which 40% of those respondents said they were active through sport-related activities.


Australian physical activity guidelines for older adults (65+) recommend accumulating at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity daily.


More recent research has shown that older persons who maintain a higher level of physical capacity may actually slow their ageing process, as well as contributing to improved personal health outcomes.

The increasing ageing population in Australia and other nations is often discussed in both media and government policy forums. It is primarily the result of lower birth rates, increased life expectancy, and the global population increase since the late 1940’s (e.g. the post war generation of ‘Baby Boomers’).  

The Australian Institute of Health & Welfare (AIHW) reports that in 2016 approximately 15% (3.7 million) of Australia's total projected population (24.3 million) were older Australians. This age group generally includes those aged over 65 years, although for Indigenous Australians it includes those over 50 years, reflecting the lower life expectancy for Indigenous compared to non-Indigenous Australians.  From a health perspective the report also indicates that older Australians are more likely to be overweight or obese (72%) compared to Australians aged 18 and over (63%) and more than half (52%) reported being affected by stress. While both obesity and stress can be reduced through physical activity only 35% of people over the age of 65 reported being sufficiently active (doing more than 150 minutes of exercise over 5 or more sessions) during the preceding week. 

  • Older Australia at a glanceAustralian Institute of Health & Welfare, (21 April 2017). This report provides an overview of this diverse and growing population group through a range of topics. These outline older people’s demographic characteristics, health status, and service use.

Sport and physical activity have the potential to contribute to an extended period of meaningful activity throughout our lives. Many researchers also contend that a fit, active person, past the age of 65 years, has the physical capacity of a more sedentary younger person, with many of the so-called effects of ageing more the results of disuse than of time. Sport and physical activity can also provide the stimulus for social contact with people of a similar age and/or interests. 

  • Physical activity for an aging population, King AC and King DK, Public Health Reviews, Volume 32, Number 2 (2010). This review discusses the benefits of an active lifestyle, particularly for older adults; highlights the major issues and challenges currently facing the physical activity and aging field; and explores the types of directions of scientific study, policy formation, and practices that could positively impact on the inactivity challenge facing an aging population. In the policy space, government interventions represent (arguably) the broadest and most powerful means of enacting change at the population level. However, policy approaches in this field are in their infancy and will need to consider many factors, including: national, regional, and local governmental structures; cultural mores and traditions; and resource constraints. Among the types of policy strategies that may be of relevance to the physical activity and aging field are methods for including or expanding physical activity promotion programs as part of governmental funding schemes; practices aimed specifically at older adults; physical activity infrastructure (particularly in lower-income locales); taxation and pricing policies that impact on choice and behavioural decisions, and; greater public awareness of the positive relationship that physical activity has with health outcomes. It is important for governments to collaborate across many sectors (e.g. transportation, health, housing, disability, built environments, etc.) in policy development.
  • Physical activity in older people: A systematic review, Sun F, Norman I and While A, BMC Public Health, Volume 13, (2013). This systematic review includes published reports of original research (since 2000) that independently report physical activity (PA) level of non-institutional older adults, age 60 years and older, and the proportion of older adults meeting the recommended PA guidelines. 53 papers met the inclusion criteria. The percentage of older adults meeting the recommended physical activity level ranged from 2.4 to 83% across the studies. Definitions of “recommended” physical activity in older adults varied across the studies as did approaches to measurement which posed methodological challenges to data analysis. Older age groups were less likely than other reference groups to be regularly active, and women were less likely than men to achieve regular physical activity recommendations when measured by both subjective and objective criteria.
  • Play On! The report of the masters sport project on mature aged sport in Australia (PDF  - 13.7 MB), Ron Burns, Confederation of Australian Sport & Australian Sports Commission, (1992). Summarised the status of mature-age sport in Australia at the time by highlighting the contribution that physical activity can make in people’s lives. 

The ‘mature-age’ market for sport participation offers great potential for program development and service delivery. Both the sport/recreation sector and health care professionals can share responsibility in promoting physical activity, including sport participation, to older adults.

  • Exercise is Medicine Australia. Exercise has a well-established role as medicine to reduce side effects or prevent many chronic diseases. A series of factsheets help health care providers, patients, and every-day Australians understand the role that exercise has in the treatment of illness and slowing the progression of disease.
  • Physical activity recommendations from general practitioners in Australia. Results from a national survey, Short C, Hayman M, Rebar A, Gunn K, De Crocker K, Duncan M, Turnbull D, Dollman J van Uffelen J and Vandelanotte C, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, published online ahead of print (11 October 2015). This Australia-wide study examined the prevalence and characteristics of adults receiving advice from their general practitioner (GP) to be physically active, and what type of advice was provided. Data from 1799 adults, mean age 56 years, was collected from an online survey. Analysis identified particular population subgroups, such as people with high blood pressure or other health risk factors, and the likelihood of these people receiving physical activity recommendations from their GP. Overall, 18% of participants received physical activity advice from their GP. Among the subgroups,  those with poor physical and mental health-related quality of life and those with an average daily sitting time of 11 hours, had the highest levels (54%) of reported GP advice regarding physical activity. Participants with high body mass index also reported that advice from their GP recommended greater physical activity. Aerobic activity was the most commonly prescribed type ( 59%) with advice on the benefits of resistance activities (13%) being much lower. Specific frequency and duration of physical activity was not typically advised by GPs. These findings highlight the overall low rates of advice regarding the benefits of physical activity being given to older adults by their GP, but the advice typically given is targeted at high risk population groups. As GPs are considered trusted sources of advice, building capacity among GPs to use physical activity as a prescriptive tool is a public health strategy likely to be advantageous.
  • Sustaining health promotion programs within sport and recreation organisations, Casey M, Payne W, Eime R, and Brown S, Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, Volume 12, Issue 1 (2009). This Australian research explores the role of health promotion by sport and recreation organisations; analysing the design, implementation, and sustainability of such programs. The authors suggest that health promotion activities through sports organisations can be successful, however capacity building programs for staff may be necessary and persistence is required for ongoing success. 

Common Perceptions

Despite the fact that significant research indicates that age alone is not a limiting factor to most physical activity and sports participation, many people believe that physical decline is inevitable and that many of these types of activities, particularly if vigorous, are impossible or inadvisable for older people. 

  • Targeting mature age participants (PDF  - 1.0 MB), South Australia, Office for Recreation and Sport (2004). This report identifies a number of unsubstantiated perceptions about the relationship between ageing and physical activity, recreation, and sport participation. Although there is a large body of evidence supporting the long-term health (physical and mental) benefits of physical activity, there remains a common perception that aging is a time of inevitable mental and physical decline. This report identifies these common (unsubstantiated) perceptions about mature-age persons: (1) mature-age is a time of physical decline; (2) older people are all the same; (3) older people become dependent; and (4) it’s too late in life to change or become physically active.

As early as the 1984 Olympic Scientific Congress on Sport and Ageing researchers presented a collection of reports and issues papers addressing the effect of aging on sports performance and participation. A consistent theme throughout the reports was that ageing is not exclusively a biological process. The aging process has significant psychological and social dimensions. 

In general, work capacityas defined by cardiac output, respiratory function, muscle mass, metabolic rate, nerve conduction rate, flexibility, and bone densitywill show decline with age. However, maintaining a physically active lifestyle, combined with dietary and supportive lifestyle practices, will reduce the rate of decline.

Retirees: Physical activity insights, VicHealth (2016). This life stage snapshot is part of a set looking at levels of physical activity among Victorians. It has been developed from research commissioned by VicHealth and explores what influences Victorians to be less or more active, and what would motivate them to change their existing behaviours. Only one in ten retirees in Victoria is involved in sport on a weekly basis (primarily club-based competitive and non-competitive sport). Given the declining physical abilities of retirees, the range of sports available to them may be limited. 

AusPlay survey

The AusPlay Survey (AusPlay) is a key part of Sport Australia's (formerly Australian Sports Commission) game plan to get more Australians participating in organised sport more often. AusPlay information will be used to fill in the gaps in national sport and physical activity data, following the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ decision in 2014 to cease data collection.

Although the AusPlay survey is still relatively new, and long-term trends cannot be determined, the current data indicates that seniors are more likely to remain active in self-organised physical activity (e.g. walking, swimming, cycling) than participate in organised sport. The 65+ age-group participation rate in sport-related activities is about 40.1%, while 44.6% of seniors report participating in only non-sport related physical activity. 62.4% of seniors report that they participated in physical activity three times per week, and 44% five times per week.  

More information about the AusPlay survey can be found in the Clearinghouse for Sport under ‘Research’. Reports are available for National results of the survey, and broken-down for State/Territory jurisdictions, as well as by Sport

Other survey research

Many factors appear to affect participation, such as gender, household income, education, and socio-cultural background. Research by National Seniors Australia in 2015 revealed thataccording to self-reported dataonly 38% of senior Australians (50+ years) were sufficiently active to gain health benefits through meeting the Australian physical activity and sedentary behaviour guidelines. An even lower percentage (15%) met an average threshold of 10,000 steps per day, although it is possible that some were participating in activities that were higher intensity, or that did not count towards the 10,000 steps (e.g. swimming or cycling). Key factors for being sufficiently active included: living in a major city; being in the highest household income quintile; not being employed; and having fished year 12 and/or having a non-school qualification.  

Australian adults who participated in sports and physical recreation activities at least once a month (over a 12-month period) gave a variety of reasons for participation, including health and fitness, enjoyment, personal wellbeing, and social or family reasons. During adolescence the strongest motivations for participation are enjoyment and competition; but although these factors remain important, health and fitness become the strongest motivators for mature-age adults. Age and on-going injury or illnesses are also frequently cited as reasons for non-participation in sport by those in the 55-64 age group (44%) and the 65+ age group (75%). 

  • Sport and exercise as contributors to the health of nations, Khan K, Thompson A, Blair S, Sallis J, Powell K, Bull F and Bauman A, The Lancet, Volume 380, Issue 9836 (2012). Large cohort studies suggest that participation in sport by older adults is associated with a 20–40% reduction in all-cause mortality compared with non-participation. Randomised trials and crossover clinical studies suggest that playing sport is associated with specific health benefits. However, some sports also have relatively high injury risk for older adults, but many of these risks can be managed by appropriate injury prevention strategies or sport modifications for older participants. Accurate, cross-sectional, population-wide data on sport participation among older adults is rare. For example, details of participation in sport cannot be extracted from the largest physical activity questionnaire in the USA. In Australia, 48% of older adults self-reported playing sport in a survey. Of the sport activities reported in that survey, organised sport represented about a fifth of the total. This finding emphasises the importance of non-organised sports activity, such as regular cycling, swimming or walking. The definitions of sport can greatly influence the reported statistics. Overall, the question of whether rates of participation in sports are sufficient to influence population health remains unanswered because of data collection inconsistencies.   

Although the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) stopped collecting sport and recreation participation statistics in 2014, their reports have previously shown a steady decline in sport and physical activity participation after adulthood. The peak participation rate was observed within the 15-17 year age group, 86.3% (men) and 71.1% (women). This declined to 64.9% (men) and 63.5% (women) during the 45-54 age group and 58.4% (men) and 63.6% (women) at 55-64. Past the age of 65 the overall participation rate was less than fifty per cent.

  • Participation in Sport and Physical Recreation, Australia, 2013-14, Australian Bureau of Statistics, Catalogue Number 4177.0 (2015).
  • Participation in Sport and Physical Recreation, Australia (PDF  - 969 KB), Australian Sports Commission, produced by the Australian Bureau of Statistics for the Committee of Australian Sport and Recreation Officials (CASRO) Research Group (2013). The ABS Multi-Purpose Household Survey (MPHS) Participation in Sport and Physical Recreation module collects information on the frequency, duration, nature and type of physical activities participated in for exercise, recreation or sport by persons aged 15 years and over in Australia.

Market segmentation research

In 2015, VicHealth commissioned research to identify key segments of Victorians based on their levels and type of physical activity. The research, published in June 2017, found that there are five distinct ‘life stages’ which have common themes as well as unique attributes that influence physical activity behaviour. One of the key stages, relevant to mature-aged sport, is Retirees (PDF  - 120 KB). 

  • Insights to engage Victorians in physical activity at different life stages (PDF  - 119 KB). VicHealth, (June 2017). This research involved online surveys of 3145 Victorians aged 12 and over across Victoria, as well as focus groups with Victorian adults aged 18 and over. It resulted in five distinct ‘life stages’ for which there are common themes and unique attributes that influence physical activity behaviour. Within each life stage, sub-groups were identified based on their physical activity levels and their likelihood to respond to programs and communications encouraging them to be more active. Some enablers and barriers to physical activity are common to all life stages. But to increase the success of strategies to increase activity, consider the sub-groups and what influences their attitudes and motivations, and the level of personal or external support available. Strategies must also consider the awareness and availability of physical activity options to the sub-group and what and how to communicate with them. 

More information about organised and non-organised sport can be found in the Clearinghouse for Sport topics, What is Sport?Social Sport, and Sport Participation in Australia.

The Age Discrimination Act 2004 is an integral part of a whole-of-government policy framework that responds to Australia’s ageing workforce and population. The Act intends to remove barriers due to age and recognise the important social and economic contribution that older Australians make to the community.  The Sex and Age Discrimination Amendment Act 2011 further strengthened the Act by providing for the appointment of a commissioner on age related matters within the Australian Human Rights Commission.

Considerable evidence underpins the physical activity recommendations and guidelines for older adults developed by government and non-government authorities. The current Australian physical activity recommendations for older adults are detailed in the 2005 Choose Health: Be Active - a physical activity guide for older Australians (PDF  - 1.3 MB) document, produced by the Australian Government Department of Veterans' Affairs, Department of Health & Ageing, and Sports Medicine Australia. This publication demonstrates ways to stay fit and healthy as you get older, depending on your individual lifestyle. The guidelines include that:  

  1. Older people should do some form of physical activity, no matter what their age, weight, health problems or abilities. 
  2. Older people should be active every day in as many ways as possible, doing a range of physical activities that incorporate fitness, strength, balance and flexibility. 
  3. Older people should accumulate at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity on most, preferably all, days. 
  4. Older people who have stopped physical activity, or who are starting a new physical activity, should start at a level that is easily manageable and gradually build up the recommended amount, type and frequency of activity. 
  5. Older people who continue to enjoy a lifetime of vigorous physical activity should carry on doing so in a manner suited to their capability into later life, provided recommended safety procedures and guidelines are adhered to.
Other helpful guidelines, both Australian and international include:  

  • Be active every day (PDF  - 450 KB), Heart Foundation Australia (2013). Physical activity is good for you at any age.
  • Exercise and physical activity for older adults, Chodzko-Zajko W, Proctor D, Fiatarone-Singh M, Minson C, Nigg C, Salem G and Skinner J, Medicine and Science in Sports & Exercise, Volume 41, Issue 7 (2009). This Position Stand of the American College of Sports Medicine provides an overview of the issues critical to understanding the importance of exercise and physical activity in older adult populations. Section 1 briefly reviews the structural and functional changes that characterise normal human ageing; Section 2 considers the extent to which exercise and physical activity can influence the ageing process, and; Section 3 summarises the benefits of both long-term exercise and physical activity and shorter-duration exercise programs on health and functional capacity. Although no amount of physical activity can stop the biological ageing process, there is substantial evidence that regular exercise can minimise the physiological effects of an otherwise sedentary lifestyle and increase active life expectancy by limiting the development and progression of chronic disease conditions. There is also emerging evidence for significant psychological and cognitive benefits accruing from regular exercise participation by older adults. Ideally, exercise prescription for older adults should include aerobic exercise, muscle strengthening exercises, and flexibility exercises.
  • Physical Activity, Australian Medical Association (2014). Physical activity can play an important role in the management of many chronic diseases, by reducing some aspects of disease progression and improving quality of life. Medical practitioners should be consulted during the development of physical activity plans for individuals with single or multiple chronic diseases. Participation in physical activity by older people can improve bone health, reduce falls, and improve psychosocial wellbeing. This is important given Australia’s ageing population.
  • Global recommendations on Physical Activity for Health: 65 years and above (PDF  - 129 KB), World Health Organization (2011). These guidelines are relevant to all healthy adults aged 65 years and above, unless specific medical conditions indicate to the contrary, irrespective of gender, race, ethnicity or income level. They are also relevant to individuals in this age range with chronic non-communicable disease (NCD) conditions or persons with a disability. In older adults physical activity may include: leisure-time physical activity; active transportation (e.g. walking or cycling); occupational physical activity; household chores; play – games – sports or other planned exercise. Physical activity occurs in the context of personal, family, and community activities. Achieving the recommended level of physical activity contributes to cardio respiratory and muscular fitness, bone and functional health, and reduced risk of NCDs, depression and cognitive decline.

More information can be found in the Clearinghouse for Sport topic, Physical Activity Guidelines.

Fitness and Strength 

The benefits of physical activity to older persons are derived from their ability to adapt and respond to both endurance and strength stimulating activities. Endurance training can help maintain and improve various aspects of cardiovascular function. Importantly, improved fitness reduces many risk factors associated with disease states (e.g. heart disease, diabetes, etc.) and improves overall health status, this may contribute to increased life expectancy.

Strength training helps offset the loss in muscle and bone mass and strength declines typically associated with normal aging. Improved bone health will reduce the risk of osteoporosis and improve postural stability. This may reduce the risk of injuries associated with falling, specifically bone fractures. Balance training can also help in this regard. Regular exercise will also help to maintain flexibility and range of motion.

  • Engaging older people in organised physical activity: Literature synthesis (PDF  - 348 KB), Smith B, De Lacy-Vawdon C, Schwarzman J and Klein R, Victorian Active Ageing Partnership (2016). The Victorian Government’s agenda for seniors is focused on addressing the broad spectrum of their needs and on policies and programs that recognise and reflect the diversity of older people’s lives. This includes enabling older people to remain active within their communities. Community and group-based physical activity (PA) programs have been found to promote social engagement, connectedness and social capital, as well as improved physical and mental health, motivation, cognitive function, and quality of life. This evidence summary provides a foundation for the development of a best practice framework for the delivery of older persons’ PA programs.
  • Growing older with health and vitality: A nexus of physical activity, exercise and nutrition, Witard O, McGlory C, Hamilton D and Phillips S, Biogerontology (2016). Physical inactivity and poor nutrition are known to accelerate the gradual age-related decline; however, both are subject to modification. The main purpose of this review is to present the latest, evidence-based recommendations for physical activity and exercise, as well as diet for older adults that would help in preserving muscle mass and strength. The authors take the position that future physical activity/exercise guidelines need to make specific reference to resistance exercise and highlight the benefits of higher-intensity aerobic exercise training, alongside advocating that older adults perform aerobic-based physical activity that may include sport and recreational activity as well as household tasks that promote physical activity.
  • Sprinters versus long-distance runners: How to grow old healthy, Kusy K and Zieliński J, Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews, Volume 43, Issue 1 (2015). Most aging studies have concentrated on endurance athletes, not sprint-trained masters athletes. The authors propose the hypothesis that a sprint model of lifelong physical training that involves high-intensity exercise is at least as beneficial as moderate-intensity endurance exercise for successful ageing. To support this hypothesis, a review of recent studies among competitive athletes of different ages (up to 94 years) provides evidence. Several studies throw some light on the effects of sprint-oriented and endurance training models on characteristics that are not only related to sport performance but also are crucial to maintaining general health in a lifetime perspective; such as: aerobic capacity, heart function, insulin sensitivity, glucose metabolism, lipid profile, body composition, bone density, neuromuscular function, and tendinopathy. The question arises, which model of physical training successfully supports maintaining basic health characteristics during the ageing process? Today, the endurance model is preferred, and its advantages have been demonstrated repeatedly. However, there is a growing body of evidence that this ‘classic mode’ may not be the only model for lifelong physical activity and health. 

Cognition, Mental Acuity, and Social Interaction 

Emerging evidence suggests that involvement in regular exercise among older persons can provide a number of benefits beyond physical fitness. The response to physical activity appears to impact upon preserved cognitive function, psychological mood state, and perceived wellbeing. Physical activity can also improve self-concept and increase opportunities for social interaction.

  • A life-long approach to physical activity for brain health, Macpherson H, Teo W, Schneider L and Smith A, Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, Volume 9 (2017). Growing evidence documents the importance of physical activity (PA) for brain health, with numerous studies indicating regular engagement in physical activities may be protective against cognitive decline and dementia in later life; and the link between PA and brain health may be different at each stage of life from childhood, mid-life and late life. This review summarises the current body of evidence linking regular PA and brain health across the lifespan. In older people the decline in cognitive function can accelerate after age 60, with fluid cognitive processes such as working memory, processing speed and executive function particularly vulnerable to age-related impairment. In a recent investigation using data from a longitudinal heart study, individuals over the age of 60 who scored in the lowest quintile of a PA index also had an increased 10 year risk of dementia incidence compared to those with higher PA. Importantly, results from similar studies indicate that greater global and hippocampal brain volume is related to higher levels of PA. These findings are consistent with observations of the neuroprotective effects of exercise from other cross-sectional and longitudinal investigations. The premise that regular participation in PA can exert a neuroprotective effect on the aging brain is supported by research examining the relationship between PA, cardiorespiratory fitness, and the microstructural integrity of the brain white matter.
  • Physical activity and Alzheimer Disease: A protective association, Santos-Lozano A, Mayo Clinic Proceedings, Volume 91, Issue 8 (2016). An international research team conducted this meta-analysis of studies reporting an association between physical activity and the incidence of Alzheimer’s Disease. Ten high-quality studies that included over 23,000 participants (aged 70 to 80 years) were analysed. Although some limitations in the data must be considered, the analysis found that regular physical activity performed by elderly people might play a certain protective role against the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease.
  • Physical activity and neurocognitive functioning in aging - a condensed updated review, Gajewski P and Falkenstein M, European Review of Ageing and Physical Activity, Volume 13, Number 1 (2016). This review looked at studies addressing the impact of physical activity on cognition in the elderly; namely cross-sectional studies and randomised controlled intervention studies with pre- and post-measures. Behavioural data were considered, but the main focus was on neuro-scientific methods. Healthy ageing is associated with some decline in sensory, motor and specific cognitive functions. However, such declines depend on various factors, such as genetics and lifestyle. In particular, physical activity and training not only improve physical and motor function, but also cognitive function and reduce the risk of cognitive decline. A review of research concluded that physical activity is related to unspecific and specific brain changes, the latter depending on the type of activity. Such brain changes are accompanied by improved cognitive functions. Higher-level functions such as executive functions are more improved than lower-level functions. Combined physical activity programs which embrace aerobic exercise, force (i.e. resistance training) and coordination training are more favourable, since the different aspects of such training induce different brain and behavioural changes. It is probably more effective when elderly persons combine complex physical training with cognitive training.
  • Physical activity and quality of life in older adults, Rejeski W and Mikalko S, The Journals of Gerontology, Volume 56, Issue Supplement 2 (2001). This article offers a critical examination of the literature on physical activity and quality of life in older adults. The evidence suggests that physical activity programs involve much more than the performance of a simple physical act. It seems highly reasonable to propose that how programs are run and the input that participants have in their design are as critical, if not more important, to quality-of-life outcomes than simply meeting specific criteria for frequency, intensity, and duration of activity. Experiencing enjoyment in the performance of activities is directly related to life satisfaction, as well as providing socially enriched interactions between program leaders and participants, and among participants.

Physiological Function 

A larger body of evidence supports the physiological benefits of regular participation in physical activity and sport among older persons. Older persons who maintain a higher level of physical capacity as they age may actually slow the aging process, as well as contributing to improved health outcomes.

  • Age-related changes in performance and recovery kinetics in masters athletes: A narrative review, Borges N, Reaburn P, Driller M and Christos A, Journal of Ageing and Physical Activity, Volume 24, Issue 1 (2016). This narrative review focuses on the relationship between aging and sport participation, and the effect on both performance and recovery following an exercise bout. Current research suggests the effect of age on performance and recovery may be smaller than originally estimated, and that the relative amount of physical activity or sedentary behaviour appears to play a larger role in any observed decrements in performance and rate of recovery in masters athletes. It appears that performance decrements are inevitable with age. However, performance capacities can be largely maintained through systematic physical training. Moreover, the limited research suggests there may be an age effect on recovery kinetics following an exercise bout, although further research is required to understand the acute and chronic recovery processes in the masters athlete.
  • An investigation into the relationship between age and physiological function in highly active older adults, Ross D. Pollock, Scott Carter, Cristiana P. Velloso,, The Journal of Physiology, Volume 593(3), pp.657-680, (February 2015). Despite extensive research, the relationship between age and physiological function remains poorly characterised and there are currently no reliable markers of human ageing. The results of this cross‐sectional study suggest that even when many confounding variables are removed the relationship between function and healthy ageing is complex and likely to be highly individualistic and that physical activity levels must be taken into account in ageing studies.
  • Endurance exercise performance in Masters athletes: age-associated changes and underlying physiological mechanisms, Tanaka H and Seals D, The Journal of Physiology, Volume 586, Issue 1 (2008). Typically, peak endurance performance is maintained until approximately 35 years of age, followed by modest decreases until 50–60 years of age, with progressively steeper declines thereafter. A progressive reduction in oxygen carrying capacity (i.e. max VO2) appears to be the primary mechanism associated with declines in endurance performance with age. A reduction in lactate threshold also contributes to this age related reduction in performance. Declines in endurance exercise performance and its physiological determinants with ageing appear to be mediated in large part by a reduction in the intensity and volume of exercise that can be performed during training sessions.
  • Maintenance of skilled performance with age: A descriptive examination of professional golfers (PDF  - 506 KB), Baker J, Deakin J, Horton S and Pearce GW, Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, Volume 15 (2007). This study examined the maintenance of skilled performance across the careers of 96 professional golfers to age 50 years. Data were collected on scoring average, driving distance, driving accuracy, greens in regulation, putts per round, and number of competitive rounds played using online data archives. Analyses indicate that performance in this activity can be maintained to a greater extent than in activities relying on biologically constrained abilities. Although the generalisability of these results to “normal” aging populations is not known, this research suggests that acquired skills can be maintained to a large extent in advancing age.
  • Physical Activity, Aging, and Physiological Function, Harridge S and Lazarus N, Physiology, Volume 32, Issue 2 (2017). Human evolution suggests that the default position for health is to be physically active. Inactivity, by contrast, has many negative effects on health across the lifespan. Therefore, only when a person is physically active throughout their life, can the inherent aging process proceed unaffected by disuse complications. Although the relationship between age and physiological function remains complex, function is generally superior when health is maintained during the ageing process.


Improved physical and psychological health among older persons has a number of benefits – economic (i.e. reduced health care cost), well being (i.e. improved mood and self-concept), and social (i.e. greater opportunity for social interaction with others). These factors combine to improve the quality of life of older adults who remain physically active.

  • Associations between physical activity, medical costs and hospitalisations in older Australian women: Results from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health, G.M.E.E. (Geeske) Peeters,, Journal of Science & Medicine in Sport, Volme 21(6), pp.604-608, (June 2018). The aim of this research was to examine the associations between level of physical activity (PA) and non-hospital medical costs, and between physical activity and hospitalisations in older women from 1999 to 2013. Median annual costs were AU$122, AU$284 and AU$316 lower in low, moderate and highly active women, respectively, than in those who were inactive [AU$1890]. Odds of hospitalisation were also lower in the low, moderate and highly active women, than in the inactive group. the authors conclude that small increased in physical activity by inactive older Australian women may be sufficient to obtain substantial cost savings for the health system and to reduce hospital admissions.
  • Exercise at 65 and Beyond, Batt M, Tanji J and Borjesson M, Sports Medicine, published online (March 2013). The authors set out to demonstrate the utility of regular exercise for this potentially vulnerable age-group in both the treatment and prevention of chronic diseases. The scientifically verified effects of regular physical activity in the elderly include, but are not limited to, reduced cardiovascular disease, reduction of anxiety and depression, reduced risk of osteoporosis and fewer falls and injuries from falls. In addition, exercise can also be an effective treatment for many of the chronic diseases that increase with age, including hypertension, stable angina, chronic obstructive lung disease and diabetes/pre-diabetes, providing a rationale for exercise prescription by physicians. Research on the over 65 age-group has highlighted the benefit of exercise on the function of the brain and cognitive ability. Population studies suggest that aerobic exercise may improve cognition, auditory and visual attention, and reduce the incidence of dementia.
  • Preventing dementia by promoting physical activity and the long-term impact on health and social care expenditures, van Baal P, Hoogendoom M and Fischer A, Preventive Medicine, Volume 85 (2016). Promoting physical activity in the English middle-aged (ages 40 to 65 years) population has the potential to improve population health and increase life expectancy. This research constructed an economic model to estimate the financial benefit to health and social care costs in England. The aim was to determine if preventing or delaying dementia by promoting physical activity could improve population health and reduce government expenditure. It was estimated that if the English population aged 40 to 65 were to meet the recommended physical activity guidelines, life expectancy would increase by 0.23 years and health and social care expenditure would decrease by £400 per person.
  • Profiles of resistance training behavior and sedentary time among older adults: Associations with health-related quality of life and psychosocial health, Bampton E, Johnson S and Vallance J, Preventive Medicine Reports, Volume 2 (2015). The objectives of this study were to gain a better understanding of the associations of health-related quality of life (HRQoL) and psychosocial factors (e.g., satisfaction with life, level of self-esteem, anxiety, depression) with resistance training and sedentary behaviour profiles. Subjects (N=358) were Canadian adults age 55 years and older. Participants were placed into one of four profiles with respect to their sedentary and resistance training behaviours. The results indicate that resistance training, regardless of sedentary time, was significantly associated with HRQoL and psychosocial health.
  • Promoting healthy lifestyles During the menopausal transition, Woolf K, Bushman B, Gabriel K and Carter S, ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal, Volume 20, Issue 1 (2016). The menopausal transition encompasses a series of stages beginning with menstrual irregularity and ending with menopause, followed by the postmenopausal stages. During natural menopause a number of biological changes occur that may result in vasomotor events (hot flashes), mood changes, insomnia, depression, and weight gain. Health and fitness professionals can help midlife women recognise the value of regular exercise and health promoting lifestyle behaviours.
  • Regular physical activity: Forgotten benefits (PDF  - 127 KB), Lewis S and Hennekens C, The American Journal of Medicine, Volume 129, Issue 2 (2016). Both men and women who engage in regular physical activity during their lifetime experience statistically significant and clinically important reductions in the risk of dying from coronary heart disease, a leading cause of death worldwide. Physical activity also reduces the risks of developing type-2 diabetes, hypertension, and colon cancer; enhances mental health and wellbeing; improves muscle, bone, and joint health, and helps maintain health which is critical to the independent functioning of older adults. Brisk walking every day for about 20 minutes, which can be practiced even among the oldest old, has been linked to a 30%-40% reduced risk of myocardial infarction. Communities can do more to increase levels of physical activity among people of all ages (and particularly older adults) to address public health problems arising from inactivity; and clinicians can refer patients to programs that use physical activity as part of treatment and lifestyle intervention.
  • Staying Sharp: current advances in brain research: successful aging and your brain (PDF  - 1.6 MB), National Retired Teachers Association (2009). It is increasingly clear that what’s good for your body is also good for your brain, and regular exercise is no exception. Numerous studies support this premise, consistently finding correlations between higher levels of physical activity and better brain ageing. Exercise has also emerged as a factor that may prevent, or at least delay, the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.  Recent brain imaging studies show that highly fit older adults have faster reaction times than their less-fit counterparts, an indication of better concentration. They also are better able to focus on relevant information and ignore irrelevant cues, indications of better attention. These effects appear to be robust and relatively immediate once an exercise program has begun.  Evidence from neuroscience research is shedding new light on the basic question of how exercise changes the brain in these beneficial ways: (1) exercise reduces gray matter loss, (2) exercise promotes neurogenesis in the hippocampus, (3) exercise strengthens neural connections, (4) exercise changes gene activation patterns, (5) exercise pumps up growth factors, and (6) exercise enhances blood flow.

More information can be found in the Clearinghouse for Sport topic, Preventive Health, Sport and Physical Activity.


Well-being results from favourable physical and psychological factors that shape one’s attitudes, self-concept, and perception of quality of life. Physical activity, in its many forms (e.g. sport, leisure-time recreation, exercise, structured and unstructured physical activity), can have a great impact upon the well being of older adults, which extends beyond physical health.

  • Physical exercise and psychological well-being: A population study in Finland, Hassmen P, Koivula N and Uutela A, Preventive Medicine, Volume 30, Issue 1 (2000). This study explored the association between physical exercise frequency and a number of measures of psychological well being in a large population-based sample of adults, age 25 to 64 years. The results suggest that individuals who exercised at least two to three times a week experienced significantly less depression, anger, cynical distrust, and stress than those exercising less frequently or not at all. Furthermore, regular exercisers perceived their health and fitness to be better than less frequent exercisers did. Finally, those who exercised at least twice a week reported higher levels of sense of coherence and a stronger feeling of social integration than their less frequently exercising counterparts.
  • A systematic review of the psychological and social benefits of participation in sport for adults: informing development of a conceptual model of health through sport, Eime R, Young J, Harvey J, Charity M and Payne W, International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, Volume 10 (2013). There are many different psychological and social health benefits reported by adults as an outcome of sport participation. The most commonly being well-being and reduced distress and stress. Sport participation appears to be associated with improved psychosocial health, in addition to improvements attributable to fitness. Club-based or team-based sport is associated with improved social health outcomes more than individual activities. Notwithstanding this, individuals who prefer to participate in sport by themselves can still derive mental and social benefits which can enhance well-being. A conceptual model, Health through Sport, is proposed. The model depicts the relationship between psychological, psychosocial and social health domains, and their positive associations with sport participation, as reported in the literature. However, it is acknowledged that the capacity to determine the existence and direction of causal links between participation and mental/emotional health is limited by the cross-sectional nature of studies.


Evidence suggests the strongest motivations for participation in physical activity among older adults are the perceived health and social benefits. Older persons who were active in their youth tend to have higher participation rates than those who do not have a history of physical activity.

  • Adults’ motivation for physical activity: Differentiating motives for exercise, sport, and recreation, Ball JW, Bice M and Parry T, Recreational Sports Journal, Volume 28 (2014). This study compared motivation to partake in physical activity among adults whose primary type of physical activity was exercise, sport, or recreation. Results indicate that participation motivation significantly varied among physical activity types (exercise, sport, and recreation). Individuals whose primary activity was recreation reported the highest percentage of no days or minutes in vigorous PA and days of moderate PA. Sport participation reported the lowest participation percentage; however, it had more individuals reporting partaking in 6+ days of vigorous and moderate PA for 90+ min per day. The top three ranked motives for exercise and recreation participants were strength and endurance, weight management, and stress management. Those participants whose primary choice of PA was sport identified strength & endurance, competition, and enjoyment as their top three ranked motives to engage in PA. 
  • Adult participation in sport: Analysis of the Taking Part Survey (PDF  - 686 KB), Jones H, Millward P and Buraimo B, United Kingdom, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (2011). This report gives a detailed overview of adult engagement in sport. It uses data from the Taking Part Survey from 2005/06 to 2008/09. Key findings include: (1) the decision to participate in sport is affected by a wide range of demographic and socio-economic factors; (2) while men and women are equally likely to walk for health and recreational purposes, men are more likely to cycle as sport; (3) popular sports may have participation differences by gender; (4) time, expense, and health problems are the most common barriers; (5) non-participation varies by socio-economic factors; (6) sports participation rates have remained stable over the period of interest, and; (7) people who participated in sports as a child are more likely to participate as an adult.
  • Correlates of physical activity participation in community-dwelling older adults, Haley C and Andel R, Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, Volume 18 (2010). The authors examined factors related to participation in recreational physical activity and sports for 686 community-dwelling adults, age 60-95 years. Data was taken from Wave IV of the population-based Americans' Changing Lives Study. Age, gender, education level, functional health and body mass index were found to be predictors of greater participation. Younger seniors who were male, having secondary level education, low body mass index and good functional health were the more likely to participate in recreational physical activity. This study found both positive and negative forms of family support influenced sport participation. This research brings together insights about leisure constraints, gender issues, and social support from within the family.
  • Gender differences in physical activity motivators and context preferences: a population-based study in people in their sixties. Jannique G. Z. van Uffelen, Asaduzzaman Khan, and Nicola W. Burton, BMC Public Health, (2017). Although regular participation in physical activity (PA) has health benefits across the life span, the proportion of people doing sufficient activity for these benefits decreases with age. The aim of this study was to identify motivating factors and context preferences for PA in people in their sixties, and to examine gender differences in these factors. The three leading motivating factors for both women and men were to prevent health problems; to feel good; and to lose weight. Women were more likely than men to be motivated by improving appearance; spending time with others; meeting friends; or losing weight. The three leading context preferences for both women and men were for activities close to home; at low cost; and that could be done alone. Women were more likely than men to prefer activities that are with people of the same sex; supervised; with people the same age; and at a fixed time. Women were less likely than men to prefer activities that are competitive; vigorous; require skill and practice; and done outdoors. These results suggest that PA options for people in their sixties should be tailored to meet gender specific interests in order to promote PA participation in this rapidly growing population group.
  • Older women and their participation in exercise and leisure-time physical  activity: the double edged sword of work, Carmichael F, Duberley J and Szmigin I, Sport in Society: Cultures, Commerce, Media, Politics, Volume 18, Issue 1 (2015). This study explores the complex relationship between work and participation in exercise and leisure-time physical activity among older women (50+ years of age). What factors enable or constrain participation? More is known about the barriers than the motivating factors. Data for this study was taken from the British Household Survey and interviews with stakeholders. Time constraints, due primarily to work commitments but also family commitments, appear to be the greatest barrier to participation. The strongest enabling factors were the social aspects of sport participation, enjoyment, perceived health benefits, and prior experience (i.e. participation at a younger age). Similarly, the lack of engagement in sport during one’s younger years (or a negative experience) was given as a reason for not participating as a senior. This research highlights the influence that friends and partners have in motivating older women to participate. While employment status is a factor, other barriers to participation included economic considerations and psychological inhibitors (e.g. fear of injury, embarrassment and lack of confidence). Life-history experience of activity can be important as either an enabler or inhibitor; memories and perceptions of participation experiences in school can be long lasting.
  • Social–cognitive and perceived environment influences associated with physical activity in older Australians, Booth M, Owen N, Bauman A, Clavisi O and Leslie E, Preventive Medicine, Volume 31, Issue 1 (2000). This study identifies social–cognitive and perceived environmental influences associated with physical activity participation in older Australians. The results indicate that significantly more males than females were physically active. Physical activity participation was related to age with a greater proportion of those age 65–69 being active than those age 70 or older. High self-efficacy, regular participation with friends and family, finding footpaths safe for walking, and access to local facilities were significantly associated with being physically active.
  • Why older Australians participate in exercise and sport, Kolt G, Driver R and Giles L, Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, Volume 11 (2004). This study investigated the motives of 815 participants, 399 men and 416 women, mean age 63.6 years, participating in their sport activities of choice at least once per week. The most common exercise/sport activities were walking, golf, lawn bowls, tennis and swimming. The most common motives were to improve health/fitness and joint mobility. There were six components associated with reasons for participating: (1) social benefits; (2) fitness; (3) recognition; (4) challenge; (5) health benefits, and; (6) personal well-being. There were significant differences between men and women on three factors – social benefits, involvement (recognition and challenge), and health benefits; women perceived these factors to be more important than men. There were other perceptual differences based upon age, education, employment or retirement status.


Many of the barriers to participation among mature-age adults are the same as for younger adult populations – cost, time commitment, and available resources being the most common. In addition, barriers may exist as a function of age; these can be personal (i.e. existing medical conditions, fear of injury, lack of motivation, etc.), social (i.e. isolation, negative stereotypes), or simply lack of knowledge about existing programs.

  • Barriers to exercise behavior among older adults: a focus-group study (PDF  - 207 KB), Lees F, Clark P, Nigg C and Newman P, Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, Volume 13 (2005). The objective of this focus-group study was to determine barriers to the exercise behaviours of older adults. Sixty-six individuals (33 who exercised and 33 who did not exercise) were divided into six focus groups; all subjects were 65 years or older. Results from the focus-group data identified 13 barriers to exercise behaviour: (1) inertia (i.e. too lazy to exercise); (2) fear of falling; (3) time constraints; (4) negative affect (i.e. feelings of depression); (5) physical illness; (6) lack of social support; (7) discomfort associated with exercise; (8) weather (i.e. particularly for outdoor activities); (9) age (i.e. social perception of being too old to exercise); (10) inconvenience; (11) perceived capability; (12) verbal persuasion (i.e. advice from others) and; (13) safety.
  • Overcoming exercise barriers in older adults, Dunlap J and Barry H, The Physician and Sportsmedicine, Volume 27, Number 11 (1999). Attitudes of older adults toward physical activity reflect their self-esteem, overall outlook on life, and health beliefs. Although retirees may have more discretionary time, they are often committed to caring for grandchildren or voluntary work and do not prioritise their exercise needs. Another common barrier to participation is the fear of injury or the perception that vigorous activity will be uncomfortable. Isolation (living alone, loss of a spouse) is also seen as a barrier to participation.
  • Physical activity-related injuries in older adults: A scoping review, Stathokostas L, Theou O, Little R, Vandervoort A and Raina P, Sports Medicine, Volume 43 (2013). This review provides a comprehensive and systematic search of the literature on physical activity-related injuries to adults age 65 years and older. A frequently self-reported barrier by older adults to initiating participation in a physical activity program is fear of injury; this fear is particularly prevalent in older adults with underlying clinical conditions. The increase in injury occurrence with age has not been adequately studied in the older adult population and therefore, the fear of increased risk of injury is not, at this time, supported by the available evidence. The initial literature search yielded 16,828 articles; only 43 meeting the inclusion criteria for this review. The countries of origin of the final 43 studies included 18 from the USA; 6 each from Australia and Canada; 5 from Finland; 2 from the UK, and one each from Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, and Sweden. While it was difficult to properly categorize the study populations, it appears that the majority of studies describe ‘physical activity’ rather than identifying sport participation. Obtaining a definitive description of leisure-time physical activity-related injury rates in older adult populations is problematic because of the wide range of population settings reported in the studies; the varying definitions of injury; the description of injuries; and the collection methods. The lack of common tools and parameters has limited the interpretation of results. The results of this scoping review suggest that it may be premature to provide definitive incidence rates, causes, and correlates of leisure physical activity-related injuries in older adults. The current literature does not suggest that older adults are at any greater risk of injury from participation in leisure physical activities. In fact, the evidence supports the health benefits of physical activity for an older adult population, and the benefits outweigh the risk of injury or the greater health risk associated with being physically inactive. Notable gaps exist in the literature and several have been identified in this review.
  • Senior Victorians and walking: obstacles and opportunities, Summary Report (PDF  - 1.1 MB), Garrard J, Victoria Walks and the Council on the Aging (COTA) Victoria (2013). Walking is particularly important for seniors, who are less likely than younger adults to participate in more vigorous forms of physical activity and more likely to experience social isolation. Walking is highly valued by seniors for a range of reasons including improved health, wellbeing, independence, personal mobility and social connectedness. For people aged 75 years and over, walking comprises 77% of the total time spent on physical activity. This report presents a summary of a literature review which suggests that making the environment more walkable (for both seniors and the general population) relies upon a number of factors.
  • Social neighborhood environment and sports participation among Dutch adults: Does sports location matter? Kramer D, Stronks K, Maas J, Wingen M and Kunst A, Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, Volume 25, Issue 2 (2015). This study assessed the association between the social neighborhood environment and three location-specific (indoor sports clubs, sports at outdoor sports clubs, sports on streets) environments. Over 40% of Dutch adults participate in some type of sport, with indoor sports clubs the most popular. Neighbourhood social capital was found to be positively associated with sports on streets only. The results suggest that a positive social neighbourhood environment enhances sports participation, but that this impact depends on the location of the sports activity. This study highlights the importance of using location-specific sports outcomes when assessing environmental determinants.
  • Traversing myths and mountains: addressing socioeconomic inequities in the promotion of nutrition and physical activity behaviours, Ball K, International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, Volume 12 (2015). Socioeconomic inequities are linked to both decreased participation in health promoting physical activity and greater sedentary behaviours. The impact of socioeconomic disadvantage are evident across multiple populations and studies. This is a concern because socioeconomic inequities also impact upon the rate of obesity and many health outcomes. Yet there remains a dearth of evidence of the most effective means of addressing these inequities. People who experiencing disadvantage face multiple challenges to healthy behaviours, including participation in organised and social physical activity. This paper addresses some on the challenges facing behavioural scientists.
  • Why few older adults participate in complex motor skills: a qualitative study of older adults’ perceptions of difficulty and challenge, Kraft K, Steel K, Macmillan F, Olson R and Merom D, BMC Public Health, Volume 15 (2015). Complex motor skills (CMS) are involved in many physical activities and sports, particularly ball games. Some literature suggests that fewer older adults participate in CMS. This study looked at how older adults perceive the degree of difficulty and challenge of complex motor skills. Six focus groups (N=36) were conducted with older adults (aged 61–92 years) to explore their perceptions of difficulty and challenges associated with different types of physical activity. Older adults perceived physical effort and speed of movement as influencing the difficulty of an activity. Although challenging activities per se were not found to hinder older adults’ willingness to participate, specific challenges in performing an activity were – skill level, environment conditions (e.g., pool versus ocean swimming), and variations influencing complexity. Social and interpersonal issues, such as embarrassment, rapport with instructors, and prior experience were other central features of older adults’ perceptions. Themes that appeared to increase the likelihood of participation in CMS were: age appropriate modification; enjoyment; social aspects; past experience; and having experienced instructors.

More information can be found in the Clearinghouse for Sport topics, Cost of Sports Injuries and Active Transport.

Masters sport, also known as ‘seniors’ or ‘veterans’ sport is usually structured for older persons who wish to remain competitive, but is often outside the mainstream high performance athlete pathway. Grouping participants by age and/or ability provides many social or competitive opportunities in an environment that is usually more flexible than the traditional offering by that sport. Each sport will have its’ own criterion age for eligibility and selection of events. There are many reasons for mature-age adults to engage in Masters sport, including: competition, fitness, and personal achievement.

It’s common for persons competing in Masters events to have participated in their chosen sport at a younger age, but this is not always the case. Masters athletes may be new to the sport or have moved from a purely fitness focus to a more competitive one. Some National Sporting Organisations (NSOs) have recognised the potential for growth in their sport by including Masters competition within their overall structure. Other sports have developed separate organisational structures to govern Masters competition, with varying degrees of independence from the NSO. In some cases, completely separate peak bodies exist to administer Masters sport.

Modifications to the sport may be needed in some cases to make the activity safe and appropriate for the age group involved. These modifications may include: reducing field dimensions; offering a handicapping system so that multiple age classifications can compete together; limiting the amount of physical contact; changing the type of equipment used; and reducing competition time or distance.

The Australian Masters Games is the largest multi-sport festival in the country, attracting over 10,000 participants in over 50 sports. In addition, numerous regional and/or state multi-sport events are regularly staged for mature-age sportspeople.

The popularity of Masters sports has stimulated research into the motivations for participation and the outcomes realised by participants. Comparisons are often made between the motivations and outcomes of older adults who participate in sports and those older adults who are less competitive or do not participate.

  • Competing for Life: Older people and competitive sport, Dionigi R, PhD thesis, University of Newcastle, School of Social Sciences (2004). In Western society competing in physically demanding sport is not considered the domain of older people. If older people choose to participate in sport they are expected to be doing it to have fun, to make friends and keep fit. The growing leisure phenomenon of older athletes who compete to win, achieve a personal best, break world records or push their bodies to the limit presents a challenge to these stereotypes. This research looked at why competing in physically demanding sport is significant to some older people, given the accepted view that it is not their domain. Data was collected from participants in the 2001 Australian Masters Games. In particular, the thesis explores the multiple ways in which older people negotiate conflicting discourses of both sport and ageing, as well as the contradiction between their identity as an athlete and their ageing bodies. The participants in this study were not only competing in sport, but also "competing for life". It is argued that a multi-faceted and conflicting interplay of resistance and conformity, empowerment and denial, identity and the ageing body is embedded in the phenomenon of older people competing in physically demanding sport. These findings expose alternative ways of understanding sport, competition, ageing and older people.
  • Competitive sport and aging: The need for qualitative sociological research, Dionigi R, Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, Volume 14 (2006). This paper reviews research from the fields of sport sociology, sports science, exercise psychology, and leisure studies that have specifically explored the motives and experiences of Masters athletes. Although the results from these studies provided valuable insight into why older adults compete in sport, they do not fully explain the multiple meaning of personal and social motivation. Sport, physical activity, and aging research, in general, has primarily focused on sports-science, with very little socio-cultural context applied to competitive sport settings. A common theme among Masters athletes is their desire to compete and win, or at least test themselves against previous performances and strive for improvement. This motivation contrasts with the ‘fun, friendship and fitness’ philosophy that underpins many Masters sport events.
  • History and Legacy of the Sydney 2009 World Masters Games (PDF  - 3.3 MB), Cashman R and Adair D, Australian Centre for Olympic Studies, University of Technology Sydney (2010.). Masters sport has grown significantly at various levels: local, regional, national and international. The emphasis in Masters sport on participation and ‘sport for all’ has made it accessible to people of varying abilities and performance levels. For many of these athletes, Masters sport is as much a social occasion as a sport event—a chance to meet others with similar interests and enjoy the recreational and health benefits of sport participation. Masters sport is also appealing to athletes with a more competitive ethos; performance excellence is recognised and celebrated. The greatest difference between elite Masters sport and elite sport (e.g. Olympic Games and World Championships) is the egalitarian nature of Masters competition. Athletes within the appropriate age parameters are generally welcomed; although there may be some individual requirements from sport to sport.
  • Older athletes’ perceived benefits of competition, (PDF  -  360 KB), Dionigi R, Baker J and Horton S, The International Journal of Sport and Society, Volume 2, Issue 2 (2011). Intense sport competition is typically associated with young people. However, the popularity of mature-age competitive events is highlighted by the success of the World Masters Games (WMG). The authors interviewed 44 competitors (23 females and 21 males) aged 56-90 years who were competing at the WMG in Sydney in 2009 regarding their reasons for competing. Five key themes emerged: (1) ‘I like a challenge’; (2) ‘I discovered that at this age-group I could win’; (3) ‘I’m more motivated to work hard’; (4) ‘You know where you stand’ (i.e. competition allows comparison between individuals), and; (5) travel and companionship. The responses suggest that sport provides unique benefits to participants above and beyond those gained from general physical activity.
  • Physical activity and Senior Games participation: Benefits, constraints, and behaviors, Cardenas D, Herderson K and Wilson B, Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, Volume 17 (2009). This study examined the physical activity perceptions and behaviours of 440 older adults (mean age 70 years) competing in the North Carolina Senior Games (NCSG) in the USA. Respondents highly rated two benefits of participation in the senior games: (1) the opportunity to meet people with similar interests, and; (2) a feeling of satisfaction. The greatest constraint was lack of time to train and compete. The findings were consistent with other research that shows older adults are most likely to be active in their communities when there are abundant opportunities. Preparing and training for the NCSG became part of competitor’s year-round routines and there was a perception of better health with greater physical activity involvement. Participants said they were more physically and socially active because of the NCSG.
  • Promoting successful aging through competitive sports participation: insights from older adults, Heo J, Culp B, Yamada N and Won Y, Qualitative Health Research, Volume 23, Number 1 (2013). This study explored the experience of competing in the Senior Games and the resultant contributions to the successful aging of older adults. In depth interviews were conducted on 10 participants (6 men and 4 women, mean age 63 years) in a Senior Games conducted in the Midwestern United States. Analysis of the data produced five central themes: (1) perseverance; (2) significant personal effort; (3) personal and social benefits; (4) unique ethos (i.e. beliefs that influence one’s social network), and; (5) identification as a senior athlete. The analysis of participants’ feedback showed that the older adults experienced states of achievement and involvement in their athletic careers. As they reached a mature stage of life, they recognised a decline in terms of physical capacity, but were able to cope with it. It was clear that they invested significant effort toward training and acquiring the skills needed to compete. Their efforts were rewarded in their ability to set and meet goals which, in turn, provided them with opportunities for personal growth.
  • Sport participation and positive development in older persons (PDF  - 166 KB), Baker J, Fraser-Thomas J, Dionigi R and Horton S, European Review of Aging and Physical Activity, Volume 7 (2010). This paper introduces a conceptual framework from developmental psychology as means of explaining the role of sport in the positive development of older persons. Research suggests that sport participation can help older persons negotiate the ageing process, provide continued motivation to be physically active, and challenge age-related stereotypes. Mature-age sport participants report a sense of personal empowerment and control of their bodies and lives. Furthermore, older athletes typically perceive ‘social worth’ as a consequence of their sporting capabilities.
  • Transcending emotional community: A qualitative examination of older adults and masters’ sports participation, Lyons K and Dionigi R, Leisure Sciences, Volume 29 (2007). The shifting demographics of Australia’s population past the age of 50 years has been accompanied by a social trend that isolates many older people. The reconfiguring of family life away from the traditional extended family model, where aging parents would have once lived with their adult children, has resulted in some older people finding themselves either living alone or in aged care communities where community experiences may be diminished. This qualitative study examined meanings of ‘community’ as they developed among older adults who participate in Masters’ sports. Four themes emerged that described what a sense of community meant to participants: (1) a shared sporting interest; (2) comrades in continued activity; (3) relevant life purpose, and; (4) giving back. These themes each lend general support to the elements that constitute a sense of community construct, as proposed in the literature. The findings of this study counter the claims that leisure-related experiences of community are largely episodic, emotional, and fleeting.

More information can be found in the Clearinghouse for Sport topics, Economic Contribution of Sport and Sport for Community Development.


Active and Healthy Ageing through Sport (PDF  - 2.3 MB), van Uffelen J, Jenkin C, Westerbeek H, Biddle S and Eime R, Institute of Sport, Exercise and Active Living (ISEAL), Victoria University, Report prepared for the Australian Sports Commission (2015). Organised sport, as one form of physical activity, provides an excellent opportunity for older adults to be active in an enjoyable setting. In addition to personal enjoyment, regular physical activity can improve physical and mental health, with the potential to improve overall quality of life. Furthermore, club-based or team-based sport participation has been associated with better social health, due to the interactive nature of participation. However, despite the known benefits of sport participation, there is a decline with age. The overall aim of this report is to provide knowledge about sport participation among the population of aging adults in Australia. For the purpose of this report, the age of 50+ years has been used and is referred to as ’older adults’. The specific aims of this report are: (1) to improve our knowledge about sport participation by older adults; (2) to summarise what is known about the benefits of sports participation and the barriers faced by older adults; and (3) to provide information about the opportunities, strategies and potential modifications that may increase sport participation by older adults. Data were used from two population-based surveys, the 2010 Exercise Recreation and Sport Survey (ERASS) and the 2013 Australian Health and Social Science study (AHSS). In addition, surveys from 192 National and State/Territory Sporting Organisations (NSOs and SSOs); plus eight focus group interviews were conducted, that included both sport club members and non-sport club individuals.

Overall, about a third of active (i.e. not limited by illness or physical disability) older adults participate in a wide variety of sports at varying levels of intensity. Men are more likely to participate than women. This study found that age in itself is not necessarily a reason to stop participating in sport; it also confirms the many health benefits of sport participation for older adults – provided the activity is done in a safe manner to prevent injuries. Many older adults participate in sport for social as well as health reasons, and enjoy the opportunity to engage in activities with family members across generations. It was found that sporting organisations (NSOs and SSOs) currently prioritise their programs for youth (children, adolescents and young adults), and not specifically for older adults. Sporting organisations generally lack the resources and capacity to develop specific sport products/programs for older adults. This report acknowledged the contribution made by older adults to sports clubs and organisations through their participation in non-playing roles; such as volunteers, coaches, officials, and administrators.

Key findings from this report include:

  1. 30% of all older adults who do physical activity for recreation, sport, or exercise do this in a club setting. This participation rate is lower than for younger adults (46%).
  2. Golf, Bowls and Tennis are the three most frequently played club-based sports by older adults.
  3. 38% of health enhancing physical activity (organised and non-organised) in older adults is sport based; this is lower than sport-based activity in younger adults (58%).
  4. Older men do more physical activity in a club setting than women (15% vs 9%) and they do more sport-based health enhancing physical activity than women (45% vs 30%).
  5. About one third (34%) of older adults are current members of a sport club, association, or other type of organisation; just over one third (37%) are past members; and just under one third (30%) have never been a member.
  6. Among club members, the vast majority (90%) play sport, and 20% are also involved as a committee member or administrator (usually in a volunteer capacity).
  7. Older adults who are members of a sport club are more likely to meet the physical activity guidelines of at least 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity per week than non-club members.
  8. Regardless of past membership status or gender, social reasons and becoming more active to improve physical and mental health are the most important factors in becoming a sport club member.
  9. The most frequently mentioned barriers to sport participation are time constraints, lack of appropriate playing opportunities, and physical limitations.

Based upon participation data and preferences of older adults, this report identified a number of opportunities. First, formal programs for Masters’ competition are not well promoted; many older adults were unaware of these opportunities. Informal programs for older adults are generally supported by a ‘bottom up’ approach, with sport clubs the primary driver (rather and strategically driven by NSOs and SSOs) and programs for older adults usually sit outside the established sporting structure. Most NSOs and SSOs do not have specific strategies to address the preferences of older adults. Opportunities exist for sporting organisations to market sporting experiences to older adults that emphasise the social aspects of sport, enjoyment and health benefits of regular participation. Greater collaboration between sporting organisations and community/seniors organisations could also drive increased participation. Finally, potential modifications of existing programs should focus on informal playing opportunities, amended rules, and developing external partnerships with non-sporting organisations that are focused on older adults.

Victorian Active Ageing Partnership (VAAP). The Victorian Active Ageing Partnership (VAAP) was established by the Victorian Government in 2015 to increase opportunities for participation in physical activity programs for older Victorians, especially those who are socio-economically disadvantage and isolated. A review of literature highlighted key domains and elements of program design and organisational capacity that have proven to be successful in engaging older adults.

In the domain of program design, the elements identified which facilitate reach and ongoing participation by older people are: (1) accessibility – achieved by affordable fees, convenient venues, availability of transport, and cultural appropriateness; (2) friendliness – shown by being welcoming, supportive, and offering social get-togethers; (3) safety – with appropriate exercises, referrals for assistance, and availability of hydration; and (4) observable benefits – including fun, increased energy and improved performance and functioning.

In the domain of leader skills and qualities, the attributes that are reported as influences upon the willingness and confidence of older people to participate are: (1) expertise – demonstrated by appropriate training, broad knowledge about exercise, skills in monitoring and assessment and first aid qualifications; (2) responsiveness – including enthusiasm, personal attentiveness, adapting exercises to participant abilities and communicating regularly; (3) nurturing approach –shown by encouragement, group building, inclusive decision-making and cultural sensitivity; and (4) connectedness – to practice updates, local services and referral systems.

In the domain of organisational capacity the elements of importance were: (1) values – including diligence and care, positive ageing and social equity; (2) networks – with groups and agencies that can provide volunteers, new participants, and program guidance from health professionals; (3) resources – offering funding to reduce fees, comfortable and safe venues, equipment and storage, and change rooms; and (4) policies and systems – for risk management, staff development, and flexible and supportive conditions for group facilitators.

The Australian Government has published recommendations for daily physical activity for older persons. The brochure Choose Health, Be Active: A physical activity guide for older Australians provides useful information and examples of exercise programs to help mature-age Australians become more active. Recommendations for older Australians include:

  • At least 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity on most days and preferably all days, to keep the heart, lungs, muscles and bones in good working order.
  • If you can’t do 30 minutes, then start with 10 minutes once or twice a day and gradually increase the time until the desired goal of 30 minutes a day is reached.
  • If you can do more than 30 minutes of physical activity per day there will be additional benefits.

Initiatives and organisations

Move It Aus - Better Ageing. The Better Ageing Grant Program, managed by Sport Australia, aims to increase levels of physical activity of Australians aged 65+, particularly those least active, to improve their overall health and wellbeing. Eligible organisation can apply for grant funding to improve older Australian's overall health & wellbeing, particularly those less active, by: enhancing the understanding and benefits of regular physical activity; improving access to sport and physical activity opportunities; enabling regular engagement in sport and physical activity; and enhancing the capability and capacity of organisations and staff to deliver age-appropriate activities.

No Time for Never. This campaign is part of the Australian Sports Commission’s platform to encourage all Australians to become more physically active. No Time for Never celebrates the fact that no matter how old you are, participation in club-based sport not only allows you to have fun, but also stay healthy, happy, and remain active within the community.

Active Ageing Australia. Active Ageing Australia is a registered charity promoting physical activity for a lifetime of health and well-being. Physical activity enriches our lives by supporting our ability to maintain independent, healthy lifestyles, and participate in and contribute to the community. 

Real Men Move. This campaign is supported by Exercise & Sport Science Australia (ESSA) and NSW Government, Family & Community Services; providing leadership and advocacy for improved men’s health through physical activity and sport participation. The campaign targets Australian men in the 45+ year age-group. Statistics show that when men hit the age of 45 they are less likely to exercise and when they get to 75 only a third of the population receive sufficient activity to maintain good health. The Real Men Move campaign provides a number of resources to encourage men and get them exercising again, including:

Walking Football to be rolled out across Australia, Football Federation Australia, (posted online 28 January 2019). FFA today announced it will launch a national Walking Football program in association with the nine state/territory Member Federations. The two-year initiative is based around a social, small-sided version of the World Game, specifically designed to get thousands of older Australians more active and playing the most popular club-based participation sport in the country.

Walking Netball initiative launched in Penrith, Netball NSW, (posted online 22 August 2017). Netball NSW and the NSW Department of Family and Community Services have entered into a partnership to develop a program that modifies Netball to remove barriers to participation for older people (or others who lack the fitness or physical capability to play traditional netball) to experience health and social benefits of the sport.

Walking Basketball, Basketball Victoria, (accessed 7 March 2019). Walking Basketball is a low impact, social and fun way to improve the levels of physical activity for inactive and slightly active Victorians including those recovering from injury. The program provides optimal health benefits to all who participate including those who might be intimidated by the pace and impact of a traditional basketball game but love the slower more social version of Walking Basketball. 

Performance Sport 

Masters sports in Australia, as both a vehicle for competition and fitness/social outcomes, are managed in a variety of ways. Some National Sporting Organisations (NSOs) administer programs for mature-age competitors through their National/State organisational structure; such as Netball. Other sports use a combination of NSO and independent Masters organisations, such as Hockey and Tennis, to register competitors and deliver programs. Still other Masters sport organisations are independent from their kindred NSO, such as Swimming, Cycling and Athletics. NSO and independent organisational structures, however, may need to have cooperative relationships to liaise with international governing bodies for their sport. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) has published numerous papers, reports, and recommendations on physical activity as part of its’ overall health maintenance strategy and advocacy role.

  • Why a global strategy on diet, physical activity and health? Waxman A, World Health Organisation (2005). The strategy endorsed by the WHO member states in 2004 is an important global public health initiative. Unhealthy diet and physical inactivity are (together with tobacco use) the leading risk factors for non-communicable diseases.

Governments, as well as the private sector, have used a variety of strategies to promote physical activity among older adults. Sometimes these strategies are part of broader health and social objectives. There is no single strategy that appears to work best, and a combination of strategies, targeting health and welfare outcomes, are usually preferred. 

  • Promoting and maintaining physical activity in the transition to retirement: a systematic review of interventions for adults around retirement age, Baxter S, Johnson M, Payne N, Buckley-Woods H, Blank L, Hock E, Daley A, Taylor A, Pavey T, Mountain G and Goyder E, International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, Volume 13 (2016). Retirement represents one of the key transition points in life. This systematic review of literature attempts to synthesise international evidence on the types and effectiveness of interventions aimed at increasing physical activity among people around the time of retirement. Several approaches appeared frequently in the literature: (1) training of health care professionals in counseling and advice giving; (2) group sessions (e.g. sport, active recreation and leisure activities); (3) individualised programs (i.e. for specific health and fitness outcomes), often with in-home support; (4) computer-delivered programs; (5) combined diet and exercise programs, and; (6) community-wide initiatives that may involve awareness campaigns, education programs, etc. The majority of papers reported some positive intervention effect(s) from all types of programs. A wide range of different measures were used to evaluate effectiveness, many were self-reported and few studies included evaluation of sedentary time. While the retirement transition is considered a significant point of life change, little research has been conducted to assess whether physical activity interventions at this time are effective in promoting or maintaining activity, or reducing health inequalities. Studies on older adults more generally indicated that a range of intervention strategies can be effective.

Many sports have conducted Master’s age competitions, kept records of performance standards (e.g. national and world records) and developed programs (or extensions of programs that exist for younger participants) to promote lifelong competition and more generally, participation by mature-age adults. During the past twenty years the growth of Masters sports internationally has increased.

  • International Masters Games Association (IMGA). The IMGA was constituted in 1995 from member International Federations to be the representative body of Masters sport worldwide. The aims of the IMGA are to promote lifelong competition and friendship between mature-age sportspeople; regardless of age, gender, race, religion, or socio-economic status.
  • World Masters Games [Wikipedia]. Links to historical information of the Games from 1985.


Canadian Centre for Activity and Aging. The Canadian Centre for Activity and Aging (CCAA) has shown innovation and effectiveness in translating research-based knowledge through education programs delivered to and through health care organisations. The CCAA’s physical activity and restorative programs reach tens of thousands of older Canadians annually through front-line health care delivery organisations. The CCAA has investigated the interrelationship of physical activity and aging to develop strategies, based on research, that promote the health and independence of older adults. CCAA research activities.

Physical Activity Toolkit for Older Adults (PDF  - 3.4 MB), ParticipACTION, (2018?). For the first time ever, older adults make up a greater share of Canada’s population than children. By 2031, about 23 per cent of Canadians could be seniors. To help older adults sit less and move more, ParticiPACTION has developed this Toolkit including physical activity guidelines, a walking program, a movement log, articles on the role PA plays in prevention and management of chronic disease, plus lots of useful resources to help older adults get moving. 

New Zealand

Guidelines on Physical Activity for Older People, aged 65 years and over (PDF  - 2.3 MB), New Zealand Ministry of Health (2013). These Guidelines provide health practitioners with evidence-based advice on the type, intensity and frequency of physical activity recommended to reduce the risk of developing certain health conditions and to assist in maintaining or improving quality of life for older adults. Health practitioners may use this information to educate and encourage older people to and  lead a physically active lifestyle.

United Kingdom

Adult participation in sport: Analysis of the Taking Part Survey, Jones H, Millward P, and Buraimo B, United Kingdom, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (2011). This report gives a detailed overview of adult (particularly older adult) engagement in sport. It uses data from the Taking Part Survey from 2005/06, through 2008/09. Among older adults, the decision to participate in sport is affected by a wide range of demographic and socio-economic factors. Key findings include: (1) men and women are equally likely to walk for health and recreational purposes, but men are more likely to cycle; (2) the most popular sports vary by sex and location – female participation is heavily concentrated on swimming for health and fitness and male participation is more widely spread across a range of physical activities; (3) time, cost, and personal health problems were commonly cited as barriers to participation; (4) sport participation rates remained stable during this period, and (5) older adults who participated in sport as a child were more likely to participate as an adult.

New Campaign Launched to Improve the Lives of Older People, Ellen Hoggard, happiful, (9 May 2019). 10 Today is a national exercise program, developed and led by older people to improve physical and mental wellbeing and reduce strain on the NHS. Launched by Sport England, housing provider Anchor Hanover and cross-party think tank Demos, the initiative comes after research revealed physical inactivity in later life is one of the greatest challenges facing our country.

  • 10 Today is a UK based program aimed at getting older adults moving, funded by Anchor Hanover and Sport England [lottery]. The program involves short ten minute routines to get people stretching and moving, that will be broadcast on the radio [limited regions] and available online. Their vision is a world where being physically active is part of daily life for older people.

United States

Benefits of exercise for older adults, National Institute of Health, USA, NIH Senior Health. Studies have shown that exercise provides many health benefits, and that older adults can gain a lot by staying physically active. Even moderate exercise and physical activity can improve the health of people who are frail or who have diseases that accompany aging. Being physically active can maintain fitness and strength, allowing older persons to keep doing the things they like as they get older. Making exercise and physical activity a regular part of life can also help older persons maintain their independence. More studies show that "taking it easy" presents a greater risk than the potential for injury that may accompany physical activity. For the most part, when older people lose their ability to do things on their own, it doesn't happen just because they've aged. It's usually because they're not active.

Where possible, direct links to full-text and online resources are provided. However, where links are not available, you may be able to access documents directly by searching our licenced full-text databases (note: user access restrictions apply). Alternatively, you can ask your institutional, university, or local library for assistance—or purchase documents directly from the publisher. You may also find the information you’re seeking by searching Google Scholar.


Fact Sheets

Media Releases & Reports

  •  Let’s Get Physical: Reforms Give More Choices For Longer Lives, Ken Wyatt, Minister for Aged Care, (9 July 2018). Forty five and 65 year olds will have the opportunity to complete special health, finance and career checks and more than $52 million will be invested in seniors sport and re-ablement programs, to help Australians live longer, healthier lives.
  • Program launched to help older Australians move more, Sport Australia, (20 September 2018). Sport Australia CEO Kate Palmer says a new $22.9 million program will encourage sport and physical activity providers to focus on empowering older Australians to become more active.

Position Statements

  • Copenhagen Consensus Statement 2019: physical activity & aging, Jens Bansbo,, British Journal of Sports Medicine, (published online 21 February 2019). This statement presents the consensus on the effects of physical activity on older adults’ fitness, health, cognitive functioning, functional capacity, engagement, motivation, psychological well-being and social inclusion. It also covers the consensus on physical activity implementation strategies. While it is recognised that adverse events can occur during exercise, the risk can be minimised by carefully choosing the type of activity undertaken and by consultation with the individual’s physician when warranted. The consensus was obtained through an iterative process that began with the presentation of the state-of-the-science in each domain, followed by group and plenary discussions. Ultimately, the participants reached agreement on the 30-item consensus statements.
  • Exercise and Physical Activity for Older Adults, Chodzko-Zajko W, Proctor D, Fiatarone-Singh M, Minson C, Nigg C, Salem G and Skinner J, Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise, Volume 41, Issue 7 (2009). This position stand of the American College of Sports Medicine provides an overview of issues critical to understanding the importance of exercise and physical activity in older adult populations. Section 1 briefly reviews the structural and functional changes that characterise normal human aging; Section 2 considers the extent to which exercise and physical activity can influence the aging process, and; Section 3 summarises the benefits of both long-term exercise and physical activity and shorter-duration exercise programs on health and functional capacity. Although no amount of physical activity can stop the biological aging process, there is evidence that regular exercise can minimise the physiological effects that an otherwise sedentary lifestyle can have on life expectancy by limiting the development and progression of chronic disease and disabling conditions.
  • Exercise and Sports Science Australia position statement on exercise and falls prevention in older people (PDF  - 208 KB), Tiedemann A, Sherrington C, Close J and Lord S, Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, Volume 14 (2011).  The purpose of this position statement is to inform and guide exercise practitioners and health professionals in the safe and effective prescription of exercise for older adults, with the goal of preventing falls. Falls in older people are not random events but can be predicted by assessing a number of risk factors. Preventive measures include lower limb muscle strength, gait and balance, which can be improved with appropriate exercise. There is evidence to demonstrate that many falls are preventable, with exercise playing a crucial role in prevention. Evidence suggests that programs which include exercises that challenge balance are more effective in preventing falls than those which do not challenge balance.  Other (non-exercise) interventions may also be necessary for older people with complex medical conditions.
  • Global Recommendations on Physical Activity for Health, World Health Organization (2011). Increasing physical activity is a societal, not just an individual problem. Therefore, it demands a population-based, multi-sectoral, multi-disciplinary, and culturally relevant approach.
  • Physical Activity and Health, Older Adults: A report of the Surgeon General (PDF  - 175 KB), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (1996).
  • Physical Activity and Public Health: Updated recommendation for adults from the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association (PDF  - 311 KB), Haskell W, Lee IM, Pate R, Powell K, Blair S, Franklin B, Macera C, Heath G, Thompson P and Bauman A, Scholar Commons, University of South Carolina (2007). This paper updates and clarifies the 1995 recommendations on the types and amounts of physical activity needed by healthy adults to improve and maintain health. An expert panel of scientists, including physicians, epidemiologists, exercise scientists, and public health specialists reviewed the evidence published since the original recommendation was issued.
  • Physical Activity for Older Adults (PDF  - 126 KB), Nutrition Australia (2011). Exercise has a positive effect on all systems of the body including heart-lung performance, musculo-skeletal activity, neuronal efficiency and body composition.
  • Prioritizing functional capacity as a principal end point for therapies oriented to older adults with cardiovascular disease: A Scientific Statement for healthcare professionals from the American Heart Association, Forman D, Arena R, Boxer R, Circulation, Volume 135, Issue 12 (2017). This statement reviews the essential physiology underlying functional capacity on systemic, organ, and cellular levels, as well as critical clinical skills to measure multiple realms of function (e.g., aerobic, strength, balance, and even cognition) that are particularly relevant for older patients. Clinical therapeutic perspectives and patient perspectives are enumerated to clarify challenges and opportunities across the caregiving spectrum, including patients who are hospitalized, those managed in routine office settings, and those in skilled nursing facilities. Overall, this scientific statement provides practical recommendations and vital conceptual insights. Not only are strategies to better preserve physical capacity and to minimize declines important steps to reduce disease-related mortality and morbidity, but many older patients regard preserved function, independence, and related self-efficacy as their primary goals of care; that is, for many patients, conserved functional capabilities become more important than traditional disease-specific therapeutic end points. Exercise is an important component in preserving cardiorespiratory fitness, muscle strength, and neuromuscular function.


  • 10 Today is a UK based program aimed at getting older adults moving, funded by Anchor Hanover and Sport England [lottery]. The program involves short ten minute routines to get people stretching and moving, that will be broadcast on the radio [limited regions] and available online. Their vision is a world where being physically active is part of daily life for older people. 


  • Coaching Masters Athletes (PDF  - 1.2 MB), Kemp N, Coaching Association of Canada (2014). This is an introductory coaching resource that contains basic need-to-know information that will help any coach working with mature-age competitors, in any sport.
  • For older women, every movement matters, Science News, (16 November 2017). Provides an overview and commentary on a study which examined the impact of physical activity on mortality risk for older women (over 65 years). The study found that 30 minutes per day of light physical activity lowered the mortality risk by 12%. 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity was associated with a 39% lower mortality risk. 
  • Getting Physical! Engaging seniors in sports, Caudwell A, Sport Information and Research Centre (SIRC), Canada, posted online (18 November 2015). This blog discusses the many physical and mental benefits of sport participation among Canadian seniors (age 55 and older). To encourage greater sport participation among seniors, a number of suggestions are put forward for program providers to consider, including: (1) create role models – role models demonstrate that age is not a barrier; (2) involve major sporting associations – organisations can help promote programs and events; (3) make participation convenient and accessible – seniors may need to rely upon public transport and local facilities (community centres and recreation spaces), and; (4) create a sense of competition – provide challenges and opportunities to cater to participant’s competitive spirit.
  • How Exercise Can Keep Aging Muscles and Immune Systems ‘Young’, Gretchen Reynolds, NY Times, (14 March 2018). Provides an overview of recent research that has investigated the ways in which regular physical activity may help to mitigate or delay the 'inevitable' process of ageing leading to significant physical decline. 
  • New Campaign Launched to Improve the Lives of Older People, Ellen Hoggard, happiful, (9 May 2019). 10 Today is a national exercise program, developed and led by older people to improve physical and mental wellbeing and reduce strain on the NHS. Launched by Sport England, housing provider Anchor Hanover and cross-party think tank Demos, the initiative comes after research revealed physical inactivity in later life is one of the greatest challenges facing our country.
  • Physical and sports activities, and healthy active ageing: Establishing a frame of reference for public action, Collinet C and Delalandre M, International Review for the Sociology of Sport, published online (15 October 2015). This article examines the place of physical activity guidelines on the perception of ageing reflected in French public policies. This study points out how the increasing focus on physical activity has contributed to the creation of a frame of reference in public policy that emphasizes the responsibility of each individual for their own health.
  • We need better guidelines to deal with age-related muscle loss, Alex Hutchinson, Globe & Mail, (8 October 2018). Provides an overview of recent research indicating that both dietary protein intake and physical activity guidelines for older adults may not be adequate for reducing muscle loss associated with aging. Higher protein intakes and more emphasis on strengthening exercise are recommended, although ideal amounts still require more research. 


  • Active and Healthy Aging through Sport, (PDF  - 2.4 MB), Report prepared for the Australian Sports Commission by the Active Living and Public Health team, Institute of Sport, Exercise and Active Living (ISEAL), Victoria University, (2015). The overall aim of this report is to provide knowledge about sport participation by adults as they age. For the purpose of this report, the age of 50+ years has been used and will be referred to as ’older adults’. Overall, a third of active older adults participate in sport at varying levels of intensity, and older adults play a wide variety of sports. Sport participation is more popular for older men than women. The study results indicate that age in itself is not necessarily a reason to stop participating in sport. This study confirms that there are many health benefits of sport participation for older adults, provided it is done in a safe manner to prevent injuries. Many older adults participate in sport for social reasons, and enjoy the opportunity to play with other family members across generations. 
  • Active Australia International Year of Older Persons Project (PDF  - 13.5 MB), final report, Australian Sports Commission (2000). The project included five components: (1) a national media campaign highlighting the social and health benefits of being more active; (2) local public relations campaigns; (3) an information campaign targeting health care professionals about the latest physical activity recommendations and the role they play in promoting the value of exercise to older people; (4) direct support to physical activity providers to encourage the organisation to provide ongoing opportunities for older Australians, and; (5) an evaluation of the effect of the campaign through Australian Bureau of Statistics data.
  • Actively Ageing Framework for the Australian Capital Territory (PDF  - 2.8 MB), Sport and Recreation ACT (2003). The Actively Ageing Framework has been developed to provide a coordinated response to issues surrounding the provision of physical activity opportunities to older people in the community. Nationally and internationally, governments and community organisations acknowledge the benefits of physical activity to health and wellbeing, particularly for older people. The research evidence is clear, regular physical activity reduces the risk of developing a range of medical conditions. Key strategic directions outlined in this report: (1) developing an overall strategy and a coordinated approach; (2) coordinated partnerships to provide programs and services; (3) research and evaluation; (4) program development and delivery; (5) access to safe and affordable transport and facilities; (6) promotion, marketing and awareness, and (7) education and training for leaders and program facilitators.
  • How physically active are senior Australians? Evidence from national data (PDF  - 695 KB), National Seniors Australia, (2015). According to self-reported dataonly 38% of senior Australians (50+ years) were sufficiently active to gain health benefits through meeting the Australian physical activity and sedentary behaviour guidelines. An even lower percentage (15%) met an average threshold of 10,000 steps per day, although it is possible that some were participating in activities that were higher intensity, or that did not count towards the 10,000 steps (e.g. swimming or cycling). Key factors for being sufficiently active included: living in a major city; being in the highest household income quintile; not being employed; and having fished year 12 and/or having a non-school qualification.  
  • ‘Masters Sport: Facts and Fiction’, Report of the National Forum on Masters Sport in Australia (3-4 October 1995) (PDF  - 3.6 MB), sponsored by VicHealth and the 5th Australian Masters Games.
  • Older Australia at a glanceAustralian Institute of Health & Welfare, (21 April 2017). This report provides an overview of this diverse and growing population group through a range of topics. These outline older people’s demographic characteristics, health status, and service use.
  • Play On: The report of the masters sport project on mature age sport in Australia’ (PDF  - 13.7 MB), Burns R, Australian Confederation of Sport, Australian Sports Commission, (1992). This report recommended that governments at all levels and National Sporing Organisations should develop policies on mature-age sport based upon encouraging involvement. Executive Summary (PDF  - 3.5 MB) also available. 
  • Playing On: the proceedings of the national forum on mature aged sport, Brisbane (November 1993) (PDF  - 11.3 MB), Ron Burns (ed.), Australian Sports Commission, (1994). 
  • Targeting Mature Age Participants (PDF  - 1.1 MB), Government of South Australia, Office of Recreation & Sport (2004). This report addresses the needs of mature-age people and offers suggestions on how to plan, promote and maintain programs that target mature-age persons. 
  • Veterans in Sport: A discussion paper’ (PDF  - 1.2 MB), Disadvantaged Groups Committee, Australian Sports Commission (1986). Recommendations made in this report include: (1) NSOs to include older athletes in development plans; (2) increase the number of older people participating in sport, and; (3) identify target groups and strategies for engagement of older adults in sport. The ASC recognises the need to stimulate policy development, information dissemination, support and advice to Masters sports bodies, and share research from other bodies.
  • Why don't older adults participate in sport? (PDF  - 1.1 MB), Report prepared for the Australian Sports Commission by the Active Living and Public Health team, Institute of Sport, Exercise and Active Living (ISEAL), Victoria University, (2016). This report expands on results from an earlier report. In 2015, the ‘Active and Healthy Ageing through Sport’ report [9] explored the relationship between older Australian adults and sport. The main aims of this report were to investigate the reasons why older adults do not participate in sport, investigate the reasons why older adults may re-engage with sport at an older age, and then to provide recommended strategies to engage older adults in sport. There were a range of personal, social and organisational reasons why older adults did not play sport. In order to increase participation in older adults, these reasons have to be identified for each sport and sport specific strategies have to be put in place to address these reasons to increase sport participation in older adults.


  • Abstracts for the 9th World Congress on Active Ageing, Melbourne, Journal of Aging and Physical Activity (PDF   - 1.9 MB), Volume 24, Supplement (2016).
  • Accelerometer-Measured Physical Activity and Mortality in Women Aged 63 to 99, Michael J. LaMonte, David M. Buchner, Eileen Rillamas-Sun,, Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, (2017). This study examined the associations between accelerometer‐measured physical activity (PA) and mortality in older women, with an emphasis on light‐intensity PA. When measured using accelerometers, light‐intensity and MVPA are associated with lower mortality in older women. These findings suggest that replacing sedentary time with light‐intensity PA is a public health strategy that could benefit an aging society and warrants further investigation. 
  • Age-related changes in the structure and function of skeletal muscles (PDF  - 135 KB), Faulkner J, Larkin L, Claflin D and Brooks S, Proceedings of the Australian Physiological Society, Volume 38 (2007). With aging, skeletal muscle atrophy appears to be inevitable. A gradual loss of muscle fibres begins at approximately age 50 years and continues with age, such that by age 80 approximately 50% of the fibres may be lost. This observation is consistent with the loss of motor units supporting muscle fibres. However, the degree of atrophy of muscle fibres remains largely dependent on the habitual level of physical activity of the individual. 
  • Are Canadian protein and physical activity guidelines optimal for sarcopenia prevention in older adults? Camila L.P. Oliveira Isabelle J. Dionne, Carla M. Prado, Applied Physiology, Nutrition & Metabolism, (published online 5 July 2018). Evidence suggests that increased consumption of dietary protein and physical activity levels, especially resistance exercise, can counteract the trajectory of sarcopenia. Canadian guidelines for protein intake and physical activity were last updated in 2005 and 2011, respectively, and new evidence on sarcopenia diagnosis, prevention, and treatment is rapidly evolving. Current guidelines for protein intake and physical activity do not reflect recent knowledge on sarcopenia prevention. The gap between guidelines and the latest evidence on the maintenance and promotion of older adult’s health highlight the need for updated protein and physical activity recommendations.
  • Are they ‘worth their weight in gold’? Sport for older adults: benefits and barriers of their participation for sporting organisations, Jenkin C, Eime R, Westerbeek H, O’Sullivan G and van Uffelen J, International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics, published online (1 November 2016). This study looked at the benefits and barriers that sporting organisations encounter when engaging older adults. Eight focus group interviews (n = 49) were held with representatives of Australian national sporting organisations and older adults who were either sport club or non-sport club members. Common perceived benefits included interpersonal benefits (i.e. intergenerational opportunities and role models) and organisational benefits (i.e. volunteering, financial contributions and maximised facility usage) for engaging older adults. Common perceived barriers included interpersonal barriers (i.e. competing priorities and perceived societal expectations); organisational barriers (i.e. lack of appropriate playing opportunities, facility access and lack of club capacity) and; policy barriers (i.e. strategic organisational focus on children, elite sport, and risk management). When sporting organisations engage with older adults their involvement can be invaluable for the clubs. While it is not anticipated that any policy focus will significantly increase active participation for this age group, any increase in active participation, support for family and friends, and/or volunteering, will help to strengthen the club as well as contribute to the wellbeing of the older adults.
  • The association between social support and physical activity in older adults: a systematic review, Smith G, Banting L, Eime R, O’Sullivan G and van Uffelen J, International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, Volume 14 (2017). This systematic review of literature summarise studies examining the association between social support and physical activity in older adults. This review looked at 27 studies (note: overall study quality was only ‘moderate’). The evidence surrounding the relationship between social support and physical activity in older adults suggests that people with greater support were more likely to engage in long-term physical activity, especially when the support comes from family members. However, high variability in measurement methods used to assess both social support and physical activity in these studies made comparisons difficult. 
  • The association between aerobic fitness and cognitive function in older men mediated by frontal lateralization, Hyodo K, Dan I, Kyutoku Y, Suwabe K, Byun K, Ochi G, Kato M and Soya H, NeuroImage, published ahead of print, Volume 125 (2016). Previous studies have shown that higher aerobic fitness is related to higher cognitive function and higher task-related prefrontal activation in older adults. This study aimed to reveal the relationship between aerobic fitness, cognitive function, and frontal lateralization. Correlations between high ventilator threshold and cognitive function were significant, when adjusted for subjects’ education. These results suggest that higher aerobic fitness is associated with cognitive function via lateralized frontal activation in older adults.
  • Association of maximum temperature with sedentary time in older British men (PDF  - 758 KB), Sartini C, Morris R, Whincup P, Wannamethee G, Ash S, Lennon L and Jefferis B, Journal of Physical Activity and Health, Volume 14 (2017). Understanding the determinants of sedentary behaviour among the elderly may help in defining strategies for greater daily physical activity. This study looked at the amount of sedentary time among UK men participating in the British Regional Heart Study, age 71 to 91, and outdoor temperature – below 9.2 degrees or above 29.5 degrees Celsius. Results showed that men in this sample spent 26 minutes more time per day being sedentary on the coldest days versus the warmest days. The results may be used to plan exercise interventions that target older men in the winter months.
  • Barriers and facilitators to the uptake and maintenance of healthy behaviours by people at mid-life: a rapid systematic review, Kelly S, Martin S, Kuhn I, Cowan A, Brayne C and Lafortune L, Plos One, Volume 11, Issue 1 (2016). Adults who adopt healthy behaviours are more likely to age successfully. To engage more older-adults in health promotion initiatives at mid-life (ages 40-64 years), we need to understand why people either undertake healthy behaviours or engage in unhealthy ones. A systematic review and qualitative analysis of longitudinal cohort studies was undertaken. From 16,426 titles, 28 qualitative studies, 11 longitudinal cohort studies, and 46 systematic reviews were included in this analysis. Barriers that recur across different health behaviours include lack of time (due to family, household and occupational responsibilities), access issues (to transport, facilities and resources), financial costs, entrenched attitudes and behaviours, restrictions in the physical environment, low socioeconomic status, lack of knowledge. Facilitators include a focus on enjoyment, health benefits including healthy ageing, social support, clear messages, and integration of behaviours into lifestyle. Specific issues relating to populations and cultural norms were identified, and many of these were related to health inequalities.
  • Correlates of regular participation in sports groups among Japanese older adults: JAGES Cross–Sectional Study, Yamakita M, Kanamori S, Kondo N and Kondo K, Plos One, published online (29 October 2015). Little is known about the correlates of older adults’ participation in sports groups. The purpose of this study was to identify the demographic, biological, psychosocial, behavioural, social and cultural, and environmental correlates of sports group participation among Japanese older adults. Among the social and cultural factors associated with regular physical activity were: having emotional social support; membership in hobby or senior citizen clubs, and; volunteer service. The presence of local parks, sidewalks, and environmental factors contributed to increased physical activity. This study suggests that the promotion of activities that could increase older adults’ participation in sports groups should consider a broad range of demographic (marital status, education level, etc.), environmental (population density, access to facilities, etc.), biological (wellness), psychosocial (trust, neighbourhood attachment, etc.), behavioural (smoking and alcohol consumption) and socio-cultural factors (number of friends, emotional support, etc.). Future longitudinal studies are needed to identify causal associations.
  • The descriptive epidemiology of accelerometer-measured physical activity in older adults, Berkemeyer K, Wijndaele K, White T, Cooper A, Luben R, Westgate K,  Griffin S, Khaw K,  Wareham N and Brage S, International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, Volume 13 (2016). This study objectively measured the physical activity of older adults (49 to 91 years of age) in two different populations, the United Kingdom and the United States. Physical activity was measured by accelerometry for volume, intensity, duration, and step count. Subjects were taken from the EPIC-Norfolk study (UK, N=4052) and the NHANES study (USA, N=3459). Slightly more that 4% of the subjects in the UK cohort accumulated more than 30 minutes/day of activity at the recommended level of intensity; by comparison, only 2.5% of the American sample met the recommended activity level. The differences observed between the two cohorts of older adults in their achievement of physical activity targets raises the question about whether ‘moderate-to-low’ intensity of activity should be included in the guidelines. In addition, the older adults in the UK cohort had more (on average) daily sedentary time.
  • Development of a physical literacy model for older adults – a consensus process by the collaborative working group on physical literacy for older Canadians, Gareth R. Jones, Liza Stathokostas, Bradley W. Young,, BMC Geriatrics, Volume 18:13, (published online 16 January 2018). Older adults are a unique group who have yet to be exposed to PL as a means to promote long-term PA participation. This new PL model uses an ecological approach to integrate PL into the lifestyles of most older adults. Understanding the interactions between components and elements that facilitate PL will ultimately provide a new and effective tool to target PA promotion and adherence for all older Canadians.
  • Development of Evidence-based Physical Activity Recommendations for Adults (18-64 years) (PDF  - 1.7 MB), Wendy Brown, Adrian Bauman, Fiona Bull, Nicola Burton, Report prepared for the Australian Government Department of Health, (August 2012). The purpose of this report is to provide a summary of the scientific evidence on the relationships between physical activity and a range of health outcomes, and to describe the process used to develop new evidence-based Australian guidelines for physical activity for adults aged 18-64 years. 
  • Does duration of physical activity bouts matter for adiposity and metabolic syndrome? A cross-sectional study of older British men, Jefferis B, Parsons T, Sartini C, Ash S, Lennon L, Wannamethee G, Lee I and Whincup P, International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, Volume 13, published online (15 March 2016). This study investigates how total volume and specific patterns of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA), light physical activity (LPA) and sedentary behaviour (SB) are related to adiposity and metabolic syndrome. This research also looked at whether accumulating PA in multiple bouts of LPA was associated with beneficial outcomes. Subjects were men (N=1009), 71 to 91 years of age (mean age 78.5 years) living in primary care centres in the United Kingdom. This study found that objectively measured MVPA and LPA were both associated with lower adiposity and metabolic risk, as was less time spent in sedentary behaviour (less than 15 minutes of sitting per bout). The beneficial associations of accumulated LPA are encouraging for older adults for whom MVPA bouts lasting more than 10 minutes per session may be challenging. Even short bouts of LPA (lasting 1–9 minutes) were beneficial for older adults.
  • Effect of a 24-month physical activity intervention vs health education on cognitive outcomes in sedentary older adults: The LIFE Randomized Trial (PDF  - 831 KB), Sink K,, The Journal of the American Medical Association, Volume 314, Number 8 (2015). This study compared cognitive outcomes between two groups of mature-age participants. One group (N=818) participated in a structured, moderate-intensity physical activity program that included walking, resistance training, and flexibility exercises; and the other group (N=817) participated in a health education program that also included upper-extremity stretching. Participants in the physical activity group who were 80 years or older (N=307) and those with poorer baseline physical performance (N=328) had significant improvement in their executive function composite scores (i.e. higher score indicated better cognitive function) compared with the health education group.
  • Effects of Physical Activity Governmental Programs on Health Status in Independent Older Adults: A Systematic Review, Pablo Antonio Vales-Badilla,, Journal of Aging & Physical Activity, Volume 27(2), pp. 265-275, (2019). This systematic review analyzes the evidence of the effects of physical activity governmental programs oriented toward the health of independent older adults. Medline, Web of Science, PsycINFO, and Psychology & Behavioral Sciences Collection databases were used for data mining, and the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis Protocols recommendations were followed. Five studies (n = 2,545 participants) fulfilled the established inclusion criteria. The physical activity programs had beneficial effects on the older adults’ quality of life, fall risk, activities of daily living, physical activity levels, nutritional risk, body mass index, arterial pressure, resting heart rate, blood glucose, triglycerides, and/or cholesterol, but did not significantly alter their body fat mass percentage. Programs involving diverse physical capacities seem to be more effective for healthy aging. It is recommended that governments start to disseminate the outcomes of these programs within society and the scientific community.
  • Evaluation of the quality of life among elderly female athletes (PDF  - 58 KB), Sguizzatto G, Garcez-Leme L and Casimiro L, San Paulo Medical Journal, Volume 124, Number 5 (2006). The relationship between physical activity and depression in the elderly population is unclear, with epidemiological studies suggesting a diverse relationship between the amount of activity and the depressive symptoms, in which these symptoms increase in individuals who report both low and high levels of physical activity. This study analysed the quality of life of 31 elderly (aged 60 years and over) females; 16 athletes and 15 healthy sedentary controls matched for age. The study group (athletes) and the control group (sedentary women) were shown to be homogeneous, with no significant differences in terms of age, physical characteristics and social characteristics. This study found significant differences between the two groups in functional capacity, pain, general health condition, vitality, emotional characteristics, mental health and Geriatric Depression Scale scores. From this investigation the authors concluded that regular physical activity in high performance sports were related to better quality of life and fewer depressive symptoms among elderly women and that this could be a tool for promoting physical and mental health.
  • Exercise interventions for cognitive function in adults older than 50: a systematic review with meta-analysis, Northey J, Cherbuin N, Pumpa K, Smee D and Rattray B, British Journal of Sports Medicine, published online (24 April 2017). This review of literature included randomised controlled trials of physical exercise interventions for adults older than 50 years of age, with outcomes measures of cognitive function. 39 studies were included in this review; the results confirm that physical exercise improved cognitive function in over 50s, regardless of the cognitive status of participants. This meta-analysis provides clinicians with evidence to recommend that patients obtain both aerobic and resistance exercise of at least moderate intensity on as many days of the week as feasible, in line with current exercise guidelines.
  • Exercise performance and cardiovascular health variables in 70-year-old male soccer players compared to endurance-trained, strength-trained and untrained age-matched men, Randers M, Andersen J, Petersen J, Sundstrup E, Jakobsen M, Bangsbo J, Saltin B and Krustrup P, Journal of Sports Sciences, Volume 32, Issue 13 (2014). This study looked at performance variables and indicators of cardiovascular health profile in 33 subjects age 65 to 85 years; 11 soccer players having 40-50 years of playing experience, 8 endurance trained older adults, 7 strength trained older adults, and 7 untrained age-matched controls. The main findings of this study were that the endurance performance, cardiovascular fitness, and health profile among lifelong soccer players was superior to age-matched untrained controls – this result is consistent with other research. When the soccer players were compared to endurance trained peers, they had similar time to exhaustion and peak power output. This study complements earlier studies showing that soccer is a good all-round training stimulus that has many beneficial health effects.
  • Golf: a high intensity interval activity for elderly men, Broman G, Johnsson L and Kaijser L, Aging Clinical and Experimental Research, Volume 16, Issue 5 (2004). This study aimed to quantify the time spent at different exercise intensities for male golfers in relation to age. Young golfers (i.e. below the age of 27 years) reached high intensity exercise only 6% of their playing time; middle age golfers (mean age 50 years) achieved high intensity exercise 30% of the time, and; elderly golfers (i.e. 75+ years of age) achieved high intensity 70% of the time. High intensity exercise was measured for each subject as above 50% of their individual maximal heart rate. Overall, this study concluded that walking an 18-hole golf course corresponds to an exercise intensity which was consider low for young male golfers; low-to-moderate for middle-aged golfers, and high for the elderly. All golfers, regardless of age, perceived their exertion similarly, as low-to-moderate.
  • Late-life exercise and difficulty with activities of daily living: an 8-year nationwide follow-up study in Taiwan, Ku P, Fox K, Gardiner P and Chen L, Annals of Behavioral Medicine, published online (22 October 2015). Data from a sample of mature-age (70+ years) Taiwanese men and women was collected in 1999, with an eight year follow-up. Participants engaging in higher levels of exercise had less difficulty with subsequent activities associated with daily living. Among the components (i.e. duration and intensity) of exercise, duration of 30 minutes or more per session was associated with fewer difficulties with active living. The authors concluded that exercise in later life may be able to minimise the difficulties in performing many activities of daily living, and help maintain the mobility and independence of older adults.
  • Motivational factors and physician advice for physical activity in older urban adults, Navarro J, Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, Volume 15, pp. 241-256 (2007). This study of 630 older adults, age 65-94 years, concluded that successful programs promoting physical activity in older adults will have different characteristics from those aimed at younger adult populations. Programs targeting mature-age clients must satisfy psycho-social needs in addition to providing an appropriate physical stimulus.
  • Motivators and barriers for physical activity in the oldest old: A systematic review, Baert V, Gorus E, Mets T, Geerts C and Bautmans I, Aging Research Reviews, Volume 10, Issue 4 (2011). Forty-four relevant articles were included in this systematic review of research that included subjects 80 years of age and older. Sixty-one motivating factors and 59 barriers to participation were identified in these studies. Based on the results of this literature review, the authors recommend that when promoting physical activity in the oldest old (i.e. 80+ years), special attention is paid to: (1) the health benefits of physical activity; (2) subject's fears of falls or injury; (3) social support, and; (4)  constraints related to the physical environment. A limiting factor in this analysis was the fact that no studies were available that exclusively describe this age group, so future research is necessary to differentiate the barriers or motivators that are specific for the oldest-old from those of younger-elderly.
  • National physical activity recommendations for older Australians: Discussion Document (PDF  - 979 KB), Sims J, Hill K, Hunt S, Haralambous B, Brown A, Engel L, Huang N, Kerse N, and Ory M, Report prepared for Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing, (2006). Current levels and trends of older peoples’ physical activity participation in Australia were assessed in conjunction with contemporary data on determinants of older Australians’ participation in physical activity. The relationship between existing adult physical activity guidelines and the proposed older Australians’ physical activity recommendations are discussed. 
  • The nature of family influences on sport participation in Masters athletes, Dionigi R, Fraser-Thomas J and Logan J, Annals of Leisure Research, Volume 15, Issue 4 (2012). This qualitative study examined the nature of family influences on sport participation in Masters athletes (mean age 50 years) of varying skill and training commitment levels (from recreational to elite competitors). Participants were 14 married adults, nine men and five women, from Ontario, Canada.
  • Negotiations of the ageing process: older adults' stories of sports participation, Dionigi R, Horton S and Baker J, Sport, Education & Society, Volume 18, Number 3 (2013). The purpose of this paper is to examine the talk of older athletes, with particular focus on how the context of sport helps them negotiate the ageing process. It draws on personal stories provided by 44 World Masters Games competitors.
  • Objective benefits, participant perceptions and retention rates of a New Zealand community-based, older-adult exercise programme (PDF  - 221 KB), Keogh J, Rice J, Taylor D and Kilding A, Journal of Primary Health Care, Volume 6, Number 2 (2014). Most exercise research on older adults has been conducted in university or hospital-based settings. This study sought to quantify the objective benefits, participant perceptions, and retention rates of a New Zealand community-based exercise programs for older adults, 60 years or older. Statistically significant improvements were found in many physical functional scores of program participants. Questionnaire responses indicated many perceived benefits and retention rates were high, with 57% of participants still engaging in programs after two years. This authors concluded that a community-based exercise program, such as the Never2old Active Ageing program, could improve many objective and subjective measures of physical fitness and functional performance. General practitioners and other allied health professionals in New Zealand should consider promoting such programs to their older patients.
  • Objectively measured physical activity and cognitive function in older adults, Zhu W, Wadley V, Howard V, Hutoo B, Blair S and Hooker S, Medicine and Science in Sports & Exercise, abstract published online (30 August 2016). This study investigated the association between objectively measured physical activity and incident cognitive impairment and longitudinal cognition among older adults, N=6,452 (mean age 69.7 years). The results indicated that participants engaged in higher moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) quartiles had a significantly lower risk of cognitive impairment and better maintenance in executive function. This study concluded that a dose-response relationship exists between MVPA and cognitive function in older adults, with higher levels of activity associated with a 36% lower risk of cognitive impairment and better maintenance of memory and executive function over time.
  • Older people’s adherence to community-based group exercise programmes: A multiple-case study, Killingback C, Tsofliou F and Clark C, BMC Public Health, Volume 17, Issue 115, published online (25 January 2017). Community-based group exercise programmes utilising social support networks have been shown to be one means of increasing activity levels among older people; but are physical activity levels sustained? This study looked at exercise adherence of one year or more and sought to understanding which factors contribute to this. This review found that factors contributing to ongoing participation were clustered into four areas: (1) factors relating to the instructor – particularly their personality, professionalism and humanised approach; (2) programme design – including location, affordability, use of music, and adaptable exercise content; (3) social features which supported a sense of belonging, and; (4) participant perceived benefits.
  • 'Outcomes of the 2009 International Conference on Physical Education and Sport in Research, Aging and Physical Activity', Rydzyna, Poland (10-12 September 2009). Significant societal benefits are likely to be realized by increasing physical activity among older persons. Older persons have much to contribute to society. Physically active lifestyles help them to maintain their independence and optimize the degree to which they are capable of participating in work and social events. Promoting healthy and active lifestyles will enable the society to benefit from the wealth of experiences and wisdom possessed by seniors in a better way.
  • Physical activity and Alzheimer’s Disease: A meta-analysis of cohort studies, Weih M, Degirmenci U, Kreil S and Kornhuber J, GeroPsych:The Journal of Gerontopsychology and Geriatric Psychiatry, Volume 23, Issue 1 (2010). This review of literature looked at six cohort studies meeting the review criteria and involving over 10,000 participants. Results suggest that physical activity is inversely associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Future studies should address the impact of midlife physical activity on development of Alzheimer’s disease in later life.
  • Physical activity and mental well-being in a cohort aged 60–64 years (PDF  - 235 KB), Black S, Cooper R, Martin K, Brage S Kuh D and Stafford M, American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Volume 49, Number 2 (2015). This study investigated the associations between physical activity in the form of walking for pleasure with mental wellbeing in a large sample of men and women age 60–64 years. The results showed that participation in walking for pleasure was associated with higher levels of mental wellbeing. Associations were robust when adjustment for gender, long-term limiting illness, educational attainment, financial status, smoking, work status, and personality were considered.
  • Physical Activity, including walking, and cognitive function in older women, Weuve J, Kang J, Manson J, Breteler M, Ware J and Grodstein F, Journal of the American Medical Association, Volume 292, Number 12 (2004). This study examined the relation of long-term regular physical activity, including walking, to cognitive function. Data was taken from the Nurses’ Health Study in the United States of over 18,000 women aged 70 to 81 years. Higher levels of physical activity were associated with better cognitive performance. Women in the second through fifth quintiles of energy expenditure, compared to women in the lowest quintile, had a 20% lower risk of cognitive impairment. The study also observed less cognitive decline among women who were more active.
  • Physical activity interventions targeting older adults: A critical review and recommendations, King A, Rejeski W and Buchner D, American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Volume 15, Issue 4 (1998). This paper provides a critical review of the scientific literature focusing on interventions that promote physical activity among older adults.
  • Physical activity reduces the risk of subsequent depression for older adults, Strawbridge W, Deleger S, Roberts R and Kaplan G, American Journal of Epidemiology, Volume 156, Number 4 (2002). In this study 1,947 community-dwelling older adults (age range 50 to 94 years), living in Alameda County California, were surveyed in 1994 and regularly monitored for five years. After adjustments for age, sex, ethnicity, financial strain, chronic conditions, disability, body mass index, alcohol consumption, smoking, and social relations; greater physical activity was protective of both prevalent depression (long-term) and incident depression (short-term) over the 5 year period.
  • Physical exercise and psychological well-being: A population study in Finland, Hassmen P, Koivula N and Uutela A, Preventive Medicine, Volume 30, Issue 1 (2000). This study explored the association between physical exercise frequency and a number of measures of psychological wellbeing in a large population-based sample of adults, age 25 to 64 years. The results suggest that individuals who exercised at least two to three times a week experienced significantly less depression, anger, cynical distrust, and stress than those exercising less frequently or not at all. Furthermore, regular exercisers perceived their health and fitness to be better than less frequent exercisers did. Finally, those who exercised at least twice a week reported higher levels of sense of coherence and a stronger feeling of social integration than their less frequently exercising counterparts.
  • Retirement – A transition to a healthier lifestyle? Evidence from a large Australian study, Ding D, Grunseit A, Chau J, Vo K, Byles J and Bauman A, American Journal of Preventive Medicine, published online ahead of print (8 March 2016). Retirement brings opportunities to reconfigure habitual lifestyles and establish new routines. This study examines the longitudinal association between retirement and a range of lifestyle risk factors among a large population-based sample (N > 26,000) of Australian adults. Working adults aged 45 years and older were surveyed at baseline and follow-up for physical activity, sedentary behaviour, smoking, alcohol use, sleep, and diet. During the 3.3 year follow-up period about 11% of the sample retired from full-time employment. The results showed no significant association between retirement and diet or alcohol use, and only a marginal association with reduced smoking among women and no significant behavioural change in smoking for men. However, retirees were able to reduce their health risk factors by increasing their walking time (33 minutes/week compared to 16 minutes prior to retirement) and moderate physical activity (59 minutes/week compared to 24 minutes). There was no significant change in the amount of vigorous-intensity physical activity. Retirees also reported an increase in their sleep duration and a reduction in sedentary sitting time per day. Overall this study found that transitioning to retirement was associated with improved health-risk profiles related to lifestyle changes that included more low-intensity physical activity, less sedentary behaviour, and healthier sleep patterns. Analyses further showed that the ‘activity-promoting effect’ of retirement is likely to benefit those who retired at a younger age, possibly because of the likelihood of better physical function. The authors caution that the data does not infer that retirees become more active, as post-retirement leisure-time activity may not compensate for lost occupational physical activity.
  • Social–Cognitive and perceived environment influences associated with physical activity in older Australians, Booth M, Owen N, Bauman A, Clavisi O and Leslie E,Preventive Medicine, Volume 31, Issue 1 (2000). This study identifies social–cognitive and perceived environmental influences associated with physical activity participation in older Australians. The results indicate that significantly more males than females were physically active. Physical activity participation was related to age with a greater proportion of those age 65–69 being active than those age 70 or older. High self-efficacy, regular participation of friends and family, finding footpaths safe for walking, and access to local facilities were significantly associated with being active.
  • Sport participation across national contexts: A multilevel investigation of individual and systemic influences on adult sport participation, Lim S, Warner S, Dixon M, Berg B, Kim C and Newhouse-Bailey M, European Sport Management Quarterly, Volume 11, Number 3 (2011). This study examined the structural and individual factors that impact upon sport experiences, patterns, and motives of both female and male adults in three countries; the Netherlands (n=48), the United States of America (n=44), and the Republic of Korea (n=30). Focus groups using semi-structured questions were used to collect information about past and current sport participation, barriers, benefits, and perceptions of sport delivery systems. The main themes to emerge were related to life-course and transitional dynamics, motivational differences, and sport delivery system impacts. Results of the current study indicate that delivery systems are critical to participation by mature-age adults. Systems that are more readily accessible or predictable and those that create social opportunities appear to increase adult sport participation.
  • Stay Active: the physical activity, ageing and health study (PDF  - 1.1 MB), Murtagh E, Murphy M, Murphy N, Woods C and Lane A, Centre for Ageing Research and Development in Ireland (CARDI), final report (2014). The Stay Active study examines the relationship between physical activity participation and health status in older adults in Ireland. Quantitative data from over 12,000 adults aged 60+ were included in the project. Physical activity was consistently related to self-ratings of health; participants who had poor perceptions of their health and ability to be active were much more likely not to meet physical activity guidelines than those who had more favourable perceptions about their health. Older adults who reported meeting the physical activity guidelines had significantly lower body mass index and waist circumference than those not meeting physical activity guidelines. There was little consistency across surveys for the relationship between blood pressure, smoking and physical activity; further longitudinal research is needed. Just under one third of older adults in the Republic of Ireland reported participation in sport. Participation decreased with age.
  • Updated evidence in support of diet and exercise interventions in cancer survivors, Pekmezi D and Demark-Wahnefried W, Acta Oncologica, Volume 50 (2011). A growing body of evidence suggests that diet and exercise behaviours and body weight status influence health-related outcomes after a cancer diagnosis. This review synthesises the recent progress in lifestyle interventions in light of current guidelines. Evidence suggests that physical activity interventions are safe and effective for cancer survivors and produce improvements in fitness, strength, physical function, and psychosocial variables; whereas dietary interventions improve diet quality, nutrition-related biomarkers, and body weight. Due to the large and increasing number of cancer survivors, particularly among older adults, more research is needed to test the impact of lifestyle change on health-related outcomes in this population.
  • We’ve proved it – older athletes do take longer to recover, Reaburn P, Masters Athlete (Website), published online (8 March 2017). The literature suggests that masters athletes recover muscle function and athletic performance at similar rates to younger athletes following fatigue resulting from non-muscle damaging exercise, such as cycling or low-impact resistance training. However, following exercise that results in exercise-induced muscle damage, such as prolonged or high intensity training or racing; older athletes may require a longer recovery time than younger athletes.


  • Dementia-friendly sport and physical activity, Alzheimer's Society UK, (February 2019). Guide aims to inform and educate individuals and organisations so they have a better understanding of dementia and how it affects people. It also provides tools and guidance so that the sector can help more people affected by dementia lead more active lives. 


  • No time for never, Sport Australia (formerly Australian Sports Commission) (2015)
  • Get fit for active living, YouTube, Reviewing Canada's Physical Activity Guidelines for Older Adults, Paterson D and Stathokostas L, Western University (2015).

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